Which Wyoming Cowboy wore it best? No. 72
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. 72 – John Kosich
Tackle, 1946-49, Vodizza, Italy/ Chicago
Résumé in Laramie
John Kosich was the first All-American selection in Wyoming history. He played -- and excelled -- on both sides of the ball for then-head coach Bowden Wyatt. Kosich earned All-Conference honors in all four seasons in Laramie. He did the same on the baseball diamond. Kosich was elected into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 1995.
The U.S. Army brought this Italian immigrant to the Cowboy State.
After World War II, John Kosich was based in Fort Warren. He could've returned to the Chicago Cubs organization. His hometown team owned his rights out of high school. Plus, he had already played three seasons with a White Sox club team.
Instead, he met a Laramie girl, Dorothy Roseberry. He decided to hang around.
During his four-year career in Laramie, Kosich earned All-Conference honors on both the offensive and defensive line for Bowden Wyatt's Cowboy football team. That's not even including his stint as a catcher on the UW baseball team, where he also earned the conference's highest honor each season on campus.
That happens when you bat over .300 every year.
On the grid iron, Kosich was known for toughness and durability. His UW Athletics Hall of Fame plaque states that he missed just two games in collegiate career -- football or baseball -- because of injury. He is considered one of the greatest tackles in program history and in 1947 was named the Wyoming Athlete of the Year.
That comes with becoming the first All-American in school history.
Team success finally came during Kosich's final season at UW. The Cowboys rolled to a 9-1 record, winning their first eight games. Six of those victories came via shutout. Wyoming also topped Northern Colorado, 103-0. It is still the most lopsided win in team history and is in no jeopardy of changing anytime soon.
Wyoming fell on the road at Baylor the following Saturday. Despite that being the Pokes' lone blemish, they were not invited to a bowl game.
The following year, Wyoming went 10-0 and played in the program's first bowl game. That was a 20-7 victory over Washington & Lee in the Gator Bowl.
Kosich took his education degree to Greybull where he taught and coached from 1950-55. He had a stint in Adrian, Michigan, before returning to the west where he landed his forever job at Billings High School in Montana.
"He touched and influenced the lives of many of them, receiving cards, letters and phone calls from some for more than 50 years," his obituary says.
After his retirement in 1987, Kosich became an NCAA basketball official and an umpire on the diamond. He is also a member of the Montana Officials Hall of Fame.
Kosich died on New Years Eve in 2008 after a long battle with Alzheimer's.
Clayton Kirven (2008-11) earned honorable mention All-Conference honors during his senior season in Laramie. The big tackle from Buffalo may not have loaded up on postseason awards and accolades, but he did help lead the Cowboys to a pair of New Mexico Bowl appearances, including a 35-28 double-overtime victory over Fresno State in 2009.
Kirven helped pave the way for Alvester Alexander and Wynel Seldon. He also blocked for quarterbacks Austyn Carta-Samuels and Brett Smith in Dave Christensen's spread offense.
In a 44-0 rout of Border War rival Colorado State in 2010, Kirven assisted Alexander into the end zone a record-setting five times.
Dennis Baker (1975-77) was named an All-American offensive lineman during his senior season. He was just the third Cowboy ever to be chosen to the AP All-American team.
Baker, a Grand Island, Neb., native, was a three-time All-Conference player in Laramie.
The best part of his story -- he turned down a scholarship offer to Nebraska.
Baker helped lead the Pokes to the Fiesta Bowl in 1976. He also played a major role in helping Myron Hardeman reach 1,165 rushing yards in '77.
Who else wore No. 72
Perry Mitchell (T), George Nace (T), Ed Fields (OT), Gene Ferrin (OT), Don Jessie (DT), Matt O’Brien (OL), Mike Fitzgerald (OT), Nate Selk (OG), Rano Sasa (OL), Matt Kostelnick (OL), Ben Smith (OL), Jake Jones (OL), Zach Wallace (OL), Wade Picray (OL), Brian Cetak (OT), Mike Van Diest (OG/TE)
All available rosters and photos courtesy of the University of Wyoming. If we missed one, please email Cody@7220sports.com.