Which Wyoming Cowboy wore it best? No. 84
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. 84 – Jerry DePoyster
Punter/ Placekicker, 1965-67, Bellevue, Nebraska
No. 84 – Jay Novacek
Tight end, 1982-84, Gothenberg, Nebraska
DePoyster's Résumé in Laramie
Jerry DePoyster was an All-American during his senior season in Laramie and held more than six NCAA records when he graduated. The Nebraska native was a placekicker during the golden era of Cowboy football, playing in a Sun Bowl victory and the Sugar Bowl. He was drafted in the second round by the Detroit Lions in 1968.
Novacek's Résumé in Laramie
Jay Novacek was an All-American athlete in Laramie in both football and decathlon. He still holds numerous track & field records and is the all-time leader in yards per reception for a tight end in NCAA lore. Novacek is best known for winning three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, but at UW, he was also a Hall of Fame player.
Jerry DePoyster wasn't just your run-of-the-mill kicker.
In fact, he was recruited by Lloyd Eaton to be the next star wide receiver or defensive back at one of the great powerhouse football programs in the nation. Instead, Eaton and Co. found out early on that No. 84 had a powerful right leg.
In a game against rival Utah in 1966, DePoyster booted three field goals over 50 yards (54, 54, 52). For good measure, he connected on a 21-yard field goal, too. He was the first kicker in college football history to accomplish that feat. And the Cowboys went on to roll the Utes 40-7 en route to a 10-1 season that culminated in a trip to the Sun Bowl.
In El Paso, DePoyster and the boys took out Florida State, 28-20. Jim Kiick was the Offensive MVP that afternoon, rushing for 135 yards and two scores. DePoyster connected on all four point-after attempts.
In 1966, he also connected on a then-conference and school record 55-yard attempt against Border War rival Colorado State.
Wyoming reached new heights during DePoyster's senior campaign. The team finished 10-1 yet again, only this time, the lone loss of the season came in the Sugar Bowl against the hometown LSU Tigers. The Cowboys rolled into New Orleans ranked No. 6 in the nation. They fell that muddy, muggy afternoon at Tulane Stadium, 20-13.
DePoyster was named an All-American placekicker that season. It's easy to see why. When the Bellevue, Nebraska, product wrapped up his career on the high plains, he held six NCAA records, including most field goal attempts in a career (93), Most field goal attempts of 50 yards or more in a season (17 in 1966), average field goal attempts per game (3.10) and that unforgettable day against Utah, among others.
Don't forget, DePoyster was also a great punter.
He punted 62 times in his career, averaging 41.7 yards per boot. As a senior, he ranked 12th in the nation in that category.
DePoyster didn't wait long to hear his name called in the 1968 NFL Draft. The Detroit Lions took him in the second round with the 37th overall selection. He played one season in the Motor City before moving on to Oakland where he kicked for the Raiders from 1971-72.
His pro career never took off. In fact, his coach in Oakland, John Madden, wrote this about DePoyster in his book, One Knee Equals Two Feet: "Jerry DePoyster drove me crazy. He seldom caught the snap cleanly. He would bobble it or it would bounce off his chest. Every punt got to be an adventure."
The year DePoyster was drafted, four more of his UW teammates heard their names called: Mike Dirks, Jim Kiick, Mike LaHood and Paul Toscano.
DePoyster was enshrined in the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006.
Before Jay Novacek was known for hauling in passes from Troy Aikman, blocking for Emmitt Smith and claiming three Super Bowl rings with the Dallas Cowboys, he was one of the best athletes in Wyoming history.
Yes, athlete. Not just a football player.
Novacek won the WAC decathlon championships, earning All-American honors in 1984. He still holds the school record for decathlon points (7,615) and in the pole vault (16', 4").
He was pretty darn good on the gridiron, too.
Novacek lined up at tight end in Al Kincaid's wishbone attack from 1982-84. All he did was snag 83 career passes for 1,536 yards and 10 touchdowns. Novacek was named an All-American in 1984 after setting an NCAA record for yards per reception by a tight end with 22.6 (33 catches for 745 yards).
Mediocrity was the team theme during Novacek's three seasons in Laramie. The Cowboys compiled a record of 18-18. They did go 2-1 against Border War rival Colorado State. In '82, they even went to Boulder and knocked off the Buffs, 24-10.
As a senior, Novacek and the Pokes did give 5th-ranked BYU all they could handle inside Cougar Stadium before eventually falling, 41-38.
Novacek was elected to the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in the Class of 1993. Fifteen years later, he was the second Wyoming football player to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame, joining Eddie Talboom.
UW currently has six members of the CFBHOF: Bob Devaney, Bowden Wyatt, Pat Dye, Novacek, Talboom and William H Dietz.
Novacek was drafted in the sixth round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He played for that organization from 1985-89 before signing with Dallas in free agency.
Novacek excelled under head coach Jimmy Johnson, earning five trips to the Pro Bowl. He was also named an First-Team All-Pro in 1992.
In 2018, Novacek was added to Dallas' Ring of Honor.
Who else wore No. 84
Jerry Tucker (end), Jim Izzo (DE), Jerry Pilch (TE), John Brasee (TE), Greg Brown (WR), Jeff Vasey (TE), Ryan McClendon (WR), Chris Cox (TE), Eric Haley (WR), Greg Bolling (WR), CJ Morgan (WR), Grant Lewis (TE), Nate Weinman (TE)
*** All available rosters and photos courtesy of the University of Wyoming. If we missed one, please email Cody@7220sports.com. ***