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. 63 – Mike Shaft

Offensive line, 1976, 78-80, Faribault, Minn.

Résumé in Laramie
Mike Shaft was the embodiment of stability in the most uncertain times in Laramie. He played under a trio of head coaches, winning eight games as a freshman and helping lead the Pokes to the Fiesta Bowl. In 1979, Shaft's junior season, he earned All-Conference honors. The 1976 squad was inducted into the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016.

Why Shaft?
After a freshman season that saw the Cowboys finish 8-3 and earn a berth in the Fiesta Bowl, Mike Shaft probably figured the program's years of turmoil were behind it.

Wyoming played Oklahoma in the Arizona Desert that Christmas Day. It was the first bowl appearance in a decade for the team from Laramie. It was also symbolic. Since Lloyd Eaton kicked 14 black players off the squad in 1969, Wyoming limped to a 26-55 record under three head coaches.

Now, Fred Akers was the sideline general and the trajectory of the program was heading north.

That is until the Sooners blew out the Cowboys, 41-7, and Akers took the job at the University of Texas.

Now what?

In Shaft's four-year career in Laramie, he played for three different head coaches -- Akers, Bill Lewis and Pat Dye. The Cowboys went 5-7 twice, 6-5 once.

With new coaches meant new offensive schemes, too. Under Akers and Lewis, Wyoming ran an option attack. Dye started to open things up a bit.

Mediocrity and uncertainty was now the norm at War Memorial Stadium. The steady play of the big lineman from Minnesota was one of the lone things that could be counted upon.

Shaft blocked for quarterbacks Marc Cousins and Phil Davis. He also opened creases for tailbacks like Myron Hardeman and Mandel Robinson. Shaft earned All-Western Athletic conference honors from his guard position as a junior in 1979.

One game that stands out from the Cowboys' 5-7 campaign that season is a win on the Hawaiian Islands.

Not only did Wyoming pull off the 21-13 upset, the team got to lift a trophy in celebration. That was the first season the Paniolo Trophy was added to this odd WAC rivalry. Hawaiian natives with Wyoming roots presented the bronze statue of a cowboy on horseback preparing to lasso a steer.

That was the original traveling trophy. It was lost when the schools switched conferences in 1999.

Shaft is currently employed by Caregiver Concierge Solutions in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota area.


Steve Adamson/ photo courtesy of Steve Adamson Jr.

Honorable mention
Stephen Adamson (1967-69) came all the way from Massachusetts to play football for then-head coach Lloyd Eaton. Adamson, a guard for the Cowboys, amassed an overall record of 23-8 during his three-year stint in Laramie. That included a trip to the Sugar Bowl and a date with LSU during his sophomore season.

Adamson, along with the '67 squad, were inducted into the Wyoming Athletics Hall of fame in 1997.

Adamson passed away Nov. 6, 2013 at the age of 67.

Who else wore No. 63
Bob Kagle (G), Bernie Ciarvella (DT), Brady Jacobsen (LB), Andre Johnson (WR), Marc Defusco (OL-DL), Larry Demshar (K), Demetrius Hamilton (OT), ER Wolf (OL-DL), Jake Schofield (OL), Eric Auflick (DT), Nick Williams (OL), Rafe Kiely (C), Dustin Weeks (OL), Jason Davis (OL)

All available rosters and photos courtesy of the University of Wyoming. If we missed one, please email Cody@7220sports.com.