CHEYENNE — Do you ever see a number on a Wyoming football jersey and think of all the great players to wear it? Yeah, me too. In this daily series, I’ll give you my take on which Pokes’ football player was the best ever to don each number. The criteria are simple: How did he perform at UW? What kind of impact did he have on the program?

No. 51 – Joe Ramunno

Offensive tackle, 1981-84, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 

Résumé in Laramie
Joe Ramunno was a four-year letterman in Laramie and started 47 consecutive games at the offensive tackle position. The Cowboys ran an option offense in those days, racking up a school record 3,245 rushing yards in 1983. The previous season, Wyoming ran the ball 60-plus times per game. Ramunno was named an Honorable Mention All-American in 1983 and '84, and earned All-Conference honors in both seasons. In 1984, he was awarded the Admiral Emory S. Land Award as the top senior athlete at UW, and was voted a team captain. In 1983, Ramunno also earned All-WAC academic honors. Ramunno was selected to the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015.

Why Ramunno?
The snow was relentless that October afternoon at War Memorial Stadium.

Even for Laramie standards.

The No. 13 team in the nation was in town, the hated Brigham Young Cougars. First-year head coach Al Kincaid had won four of his first six games at UW. A fifth, against Jim McMahon, Vai Sikahema and Kyle Whittingham's Cougars, wasn't likely.

But that white stuff just continued to fall.

BYU jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead on the Pokes. Then, Wyoming got off the mat.

The Cowboys outscored the Cougars, 33-6, led by quarterback Phil Davis, Wyoming's orchestrate of an unrelenting option attack. While the home team cut, pitched and rushed its way to an improbable 33-20 win, BYU's high-powered passing attack slipped on the ice.

Davis rushed the ball 16 times that day for a team-leading 140 yards. He scored three times on the ground on jaunts of 30, 32 and 28 yards. Davis also connected on an 81-yard scoring strike to James Williams to put this one out of reach.

He did plenty of that damage behind a freshman tackle named Joe Ramunno.

BYU head coach LaVell Edwards famously said that afternoon: "I’d rather lose and live in Provo than win and live in Laramie."

Well, he lost -- badly.

That was just the second defeat for Edwards' Cougars in 1981.

Ramunno, who was enshrined in the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015, started 47 consecutive games on the Pokes' offensive line. He was named an Honorable Mention All-American as a junior and senior. He was also a first-team All-Western Athletic selection in those seasons. Ramunno was selected team captain before the 1984 campaigning, joining a guy named Jay Novacek.

Ramunno went on to become a member of the vaunted 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears. His teammate in the Windy City, none other than McMahon.

Remunno returned to Laramie in 1987 where he was a volunteer coach under Paul Roach. He went on to become a high school and collegiate coach.

Honorable mention
Jeff Smith (1996-98) was part of one of the most successful stretches in school history under Joe Tiller and Dana Dimel. Smith blocked for running backs Len Sexton and Marques Brigham, among others. During his career, UW went 26-10. The 1996 squad went 10-2 and played in the inaugural WAC Championship in Las Vegas. Without guys like Smith on the offensive line, Marcus Harris and Josh Wallwork don't put up some of the most impressive offensive numbers in program history.

Keep your eye on another No. 51 -- Solomon Byrd. Yes, he just completed his redshirt freshman season in Laramie, but even coached know this could be a special player at the defensive end spot. Byrd finished with 44 tackles and a team-leading 6.5 sacks during the 2019 campaign. He also racked up 9.5 tackles for loss and scooped up a fumble recovery for Craig Bohl's Cowboys. 



Who else wore No. 51
George Jefferson (C), Dennis Gladwin (C), Mike Straily (C), K.C. Cushing (LB), Shawn Wehrer (OG-C), Paul Wells (SS), Melvin Wells (WR). Jarrod Heidemann (OT), Jason Heldt (DB), Jason Tremblay (Bandit), Jeremy Davis (LB), Brandon Haugen (LB), Ian Watts (K), Tyler Strong (OG), Troy Boyland (DT), Payton Lowry-Sanders (DE)

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