Which Wyoming Cowboy wore it best? No. 86
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. 86 – Ken Fantetti
Linebacker, 1975-78, Portland, Oregon
Résumé in Laramie
Ken Fantetti amassed 352 career tackles during his four-year stint in Laramie. He was named an All-American as a senior and was named first-team All-Western Athletic Conference in 1977 and '78. The Oregon product was enshrined in the school's Hall of Fame in 2003. He also had a seven-year career in the NFL, all with the Detroit Lions. Fantetti helped lead the Cowboys to the 1976 Fiesta Bowl.
Ken Fantetti's UW Athletics Hall of fame plaque states that he became one of the "most devastating linebackers in Cowboy history."
Do we need to say more?
No, but we will anyway.
Fantetti was a a senior All-American, capping that 1978 campaign with 124 tackles. Nearly 80 of those were unassisted take downs. Fantetti is still ranked seventh all time in school history with 352 career tackles. He was fourth on the list when he graduated.
Twice Fantetti racked up 18 tackles in a single game. And both times, it was a Utah school that felt the brunt of No. 86.
In 1977, Fantetti dominated Utah State inside Maverik Stadium. The following season, it was the Utes' backfield that met with Fantetti more times than they care to remember.
On an overcast late October day in front of 20,000 fans inside War Memorial Stadium, Fantetti made life miserable for Wayne Howard's Utes. Utah was coming off three straight victories, including an unlikely upset at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City where they took down the Hawkeyes, 13-9.
On this day, Phil Davis found the end zone twice and Marc Cousins ran for a score and tossed a 45-yard touchdown pass to Vic Baginski to take care of the offensive side of things.
Fantetti's suffocating swarming attack took care of the rest. Fantetti finished with those 18 tackles, including three for loss. He also caused a fumble, earning himself National Lineman of the Week honors.
Fantetti began his career in Laramie with Fred Akers at the helm of the Cowboys' program. In 1977, Bill Lewis took the reins when Akers left for the University of Texas. As a freshman, Fantetti and the Pokes limped to a 2-9 record. Wyoming found itself in the Fiesta Bowl a season later, playing Oklahoma in the Arizona desert.
Fantetti parlayed a productive collegiate career into becoming a second round pick of the Detroit Lions in the 1979 NFL Draft. In an Associated Press story entitled "Lions pleased with draft picks," then Detroit head coach Monte Clark called Fantetti a "deluxe hitter."
"Which means he's something special," Clark continued. "He's an old-fashioned, rough and tough, hard-nosed football player."
Fantetti played 95 games in the Motor City over seven seasons. Post retirement, he opened a restaurant in Oregon called Big Ken's BBQ. He now resides in northern Colorado.
Dewey McConnell (1949-51), a Laramie native, was one of the first All-Americans in school history after leading the NCAA in receptions in 1951 with 47 catches for 725 yards and eight touchdowns.
In his final two seasons as a Cowboy, McConnell was named first-team All-Skyline Conference.
When McConnell graduated, he owned every receiving record in program history. Five of those receptions came against Washington & Lee in the Cowboys' 1951 Gator Bowl victory. McConnell racked up 75 yards in the 20-7 win, Wyoming's first bowl victory in program history.
Did we mention he also played defense? McConnell was one of the Pokes' top defenders during his three-year career.
McConnell was inducted into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 1995.
According to his plaque, McConnell was the first Rocky Mountain Region player to be selected in the 1952 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. He was taken in the third round. After a stint in the U.S. Navy, McConnell played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
McConnel passed away in Laramie in 1984 at the age of 54.
Who else wore No. 86
Charlie Gelal (end), Bob Larracuenta (end), Dan Holladay (SE), Eric Worden (DL), Neil Worden (TE), Kirby Drube (TE), Sterling Kihei (TE), Casey Adams (DT/TE), Brian Majcen (TE), Jason Wallace (WR), Joe Evers (TE), Shane Sullivan (H-Back), Adam Kinder (DL), Weston Dinsmore (WR), Javaree Jackson (DT),
*** All available rosters and photos courtesy of the University of Wyoming. If we missed one, please email Cody@7220sports.com. ***