Which Wyoming Cowboy wore it best? No. 78
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. 78 – Dale Memmelaar
Offensive tackle, 1956-58, Goshen, New York
Résumé in Laramie
Dale Memmelaar, a team captain, helped lead the Cowboys to a 14-6 win over Hardin-Simmons in the 1958 Sun Bowl under head coach Bob Devaney. As a sophomore, Wyoming went 10-0 under then head coach Phil Dickens. They finished No. 19 in the national polls but did not receive a bowl bid. The big offensive tackle helped UW set a single-season record in '58, averaging 22.5 yards per pass play.
Dale Memmelaar was referred to by his friends and family as a "gentle giant."
Standing 6-feet, 2-inches and weighing in at 247 pounds, in those days, the offensive tackle from Goshen, New York, earned the moniker.
In a 2009 story entitled "NFL only part of Memmelaar’s life," the former Wyoming standout was shown in a different light. It didn't detail his contributions in Leading the Cowboys to a Skyline Championship and 14-6 victory over Hardin-Simmons in the 1958 Sun Bowl. It didn't spend much time on the Pokes' perfect 10-0 record in 1956, the final season Phil Dickens coached in Laramie.
It never mentioned how Memmelaar, a team captain as a senior, aided in setting a single-season record on offense for most passing yards per completion (22.5). Bob Devaney, the legendary head coach, wasn't mentioned either.
What it did mention is work ethic, faith and growing up in a house with 10 children, sharing three bedrooms. Four of which went on to play for the Cowboys more than 1,700 miles away from home.
"There was no heat upstairs. Snow made its way through the window cracks," the article states. "Each winter breath illuminated against the brisk air. A glass of water left overnight was frozen by morning, which for the Memmelaars was 3:30 a.m., up and at ’em for farm work, seven days a week, 365 days of the year.
“I wouldn’t trade it,” said brother Sherman Memmelaar, who also played at UW. “I wouldn’t trade it for nothing.”
Dale was the fourth of the Memmelaar kids. There were nine boys, one girl.
"They benefited from the passion and discipline of farm work, milking cows at 4 a.m., on the school bus at 7:10, then school, football practice, chores and homework before bed," the story continues. "Their strength was all-natural thanks to tossing 80-pound bales of hay seven high onto the wagon."
Memmelaar played nine years in the NFL for five different organizations. In 1964, he was a pulling guard for Jim Brown. Cleveland won the NFL Championship that season. He also played for Don Shula's Colts. He became fast friends with a flat-topped quarterback there.
"Sherman remembered one game when Memmelaar hit Detroit’s Alex Karras so hard that the front of Memmelaar’s helmet collapsed. 'Dale, you can’t play with that,' Johnny Unitas said in the huddle. 'Feel your head.'
"Memmelaar played the rest of the game with a headache and his helmet all messed up. Why not? By then he was making even more than his $6,500 rookie salary. Dale always said he was born 10 years early to reap the league’s financial rewards. But his wealth came in his outlook toward life and the people he met along the way."
A knee injury ended Memmelaar's football career in 1967. He went on to start the football program at Washingtonville High in his native New York. He went back to school, earning his doctorate in philosophy.
Memmelaar was a beloved figure in his hometown. In fact, when he was in high school, friends pitched in to send his parents, Claire and John, to Laramie to see where their boys were playing football. They also got to see that Sun Bowl victory. Dale and Fred Memmelaar, a three-time All-Conference selection, both played in that game.
"One of the finest, that’s for sure,' Sherman said on the day of Dale's funeral back in 2009. "Nobody ever had an unkind word. Always positive. No matter what he did, he was always positive. That’s why he did so well in the NFL — always positive."
Johnny Miller (1975-78) earned first-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors in 1978, leading the way for Myron Hardeman and Marc Cousins from his tackle position.
In 1976, Miller helped lead the Cowboys to the Fiesta Bowl and a meeting with No. 8 Oklahoma. It was the first postseason contest for UW since the 1967 Sugar Bowl.
Who else wore No. 78
Dick Bratcher (T), Ed Ricks (OT), Trent Greener (DL), Eric Worden (OG), Heath Petersen (DT), Cody Pierantoni (DE/DT), Nate Reimers (OG/OT), Brandon Avery (OL), Alan Erving (OL), Nick Brousseau (OT), Thomas Vonashek (OT), Nathan Leddige (OL), Shane Henderson (DT), Alonzo Velazquez (T)
*** All available rosters and photos courtesy of the University of Wyoming. If we missed one, please email Cody@7220sports.com. ***