Which Wyoming Cowboy wore it best? No. 52
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. 52 – Gabe Knapton
Defensive end/ linebacker, 2008-11, Mead, Colo.,
Résumé in Laramie
Gabe Knapton capped his decorated career in Laramie with 368 tackles, which was fifth in school history. As a senior, Knapton was named second-team All-Mountain West. He was an honorable mention a year prior. His 18 tackles as a freshman against UNLV is still tied for seventh most in program history. His three-sack performance against New Mexico in 2010 is still the fifth most in a single game at UW.
Wyoming was just coming off one of the most improbable win in program history, a 13-7 victory on Rocky Top over the not-so-mighty-at-the-time Tennessee Volunteers.
The Cowboys were far from mighty themselves, but with that victory, were just two wins away from bowl eligibility with a pair of games remaining. The first test came in Sin City against a four-win UNLV squad.
A four-win team starting a back-up quarterback, Mike Clausen.
The scene was set.
Wyoming had a 14-9 lead heading into the fourth quarter and Gabe Knapton was all over the field, working on the best single-game performance of his then-brief career. The freshman defensive end/ linebacker was a menace all night long, making life miserable for the Rebels offense.
Wyoming wasn't about to let this one slip away.
Then, it did.
A fake punt sparked UNLV. A pair of Chris Stutzreim interceptions was the dagger. Wyoming lost that day, 22-14. Head Coach Joe Glenn was fired a week later after a season-ending loss to Colorado State.
The news wasn't all bad. The Cowboys had a new star in Knapton, who finished the day with 18 tackles, which is still tied for seventh in program history.
fortunately for Knapton, another career day was clouded by a road loss. In 2010, he got to New Mexico quarterback Stump Godfrey three times. That mark is still fifth best in school lore.
Knapton had a few wins during his four-year tenure in Laramie, too. In 2009, Dave Christensen's first season at the helm, Wyoming knocked off Fresno State 35-28 in double overtime at the New Mexico Bowl.
Knapton was very much a part of a Cowboys' goal-line stand that shutdown Bulldogs' running back and future NFL star, Ryan Matthews, four straight times. The Cowboys returned to Albuquerque in 2011. In Knapton's final game, Wyoming fell to Temple.
Known for his high motor, bushy beard and smeared eye black, Knapton finished his career fifth all-time in tackles with 368.
He parlayed a stellar college career into a six-year stint in the Canadian Football League. He also played one season in the Indoor Football League in 2013. He was named first-team IFL after racking up 81 tackles and nine sacks.
The following season, his first north of the border, Knapton was a nominee for the Most Outstanding Rookie Award as a member of the Montreal Alouettes.
Knapton is all but retired from football now, though he said in February that he would answer the phone if the right call came in. He spends his time back home in northern Colorado where along with former UW teammate, Tyler Strong, the duo recently opened a training facility, Different Breed Performance.
Don Meadows (1970-71), like Knapton, had an 18-tackle performance against Arizona in 1971. The interior lineman helped lead the Cowboys to a 14-3 victory that early October day at War Memorial Stadium. Meadows, who also played on Wyoming's offensive line, was named to the 1971 All-Western Athletic Conference team.
Mal Wagstaff (1965-66) was another bruising offensive lineman for the Cowboys on the 1966 squad that went 10-1 and knocked off Florida State 28-20 in the Sun Bowl. The California product was the center on a team that featured stars like Jim Kiick, Jerry Merion, Rick Egloff, Jerry DePoyster, and others.
There's another UW Hall of Famer that wore this jersey number, too. That man is Vince Guinta (1954-56). Guinta, a Brooklyn, New York, native is described on his HOF plaque as a "Terror on defense." He played linebacker and offensive line for the Cowboys. He helped lead Wyoming to a Sun Bowl victory in 1955 and a Skyline championship the following season.
Who else wore No. 52
Mike Newman (OG), Vaughn Henderson (LB), Ryan Vowers (DL), Jeff Pinnick (DT), Ryan Rathjen (DB), Andy Reinwald (TE), Rhett Polka (DB), Chuck Polson (DB), Eddie Pratt (WR), Kelley Pratt (QB), Scott Williams (DT), Garrett Anderson (C), John Wilson (LB), Tyler Ottem (DE), Sam Hardy (DL), Josh Teeter (OL), Waddie Love (LB), Jahmari Moore (LB), Jack Boyer (DE)
All available rosters and photos courtesy of the University of Wyoming. If we missed one, please email Cody@7220sports.com.