Which Wyoming Cowboy wore it best? No. 91
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. 91 – Paul Nunu
Linebacker, 1974-76, Laie, Hawaii
Résumé in Laramie
As a senior, Paul Nunu earned first-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors at linebacker. That season he racked up 127 tackles, cracking the school's Top-10 list. Twenty of those tackles came against New Mexico. That's third all-time for a Cowboy in a game. He was a three-year letterwinner in Laramie and a team captain on the 1976 squad that went to the Fiesta Bowl. That team is forever enshrined in the UW athletics Hall of Fame.
In October of 1976, Sports illustrated sent reporter John Underwood to Laramie.
His assignment: the re-emergence of Wyoming football.
The Cowboys had fallen on hard times after the "Black 14" incident. That's when then-head coach Lloyd Eaton kicked 14 black players off his team in 1969 for wanting to wear black armbands in a game against BYU to protest the practices of the Mormon Church.
The fallout was drastic. Black players didn't want to come to Laramie. The win column started to suffer. Eaton's Cowboys went from the Sugar Bowl to 1-9 two seasons later. Until 1976, Wyoming amassed an overall record of 18-47.
There were no conference titles. No bowls.
This season, however, was different. The Cowboys reeled off three wins in a row and entered week six against New Mexico with one loss, a 21-10 setback at Michigan State.
The Lobos were 3-1 and sat atop the WAC with Fred Akers' Cowboys. That crisp fall day in front of 23,649 fans in Laramie the outcome, though early in the season, would go a long way in determining a conference champ.
Paul Nunu came to UW looking for "something different," according to the SI article. Back in his native Hawaii, Nunu was involved in so many fights growing up that a school official suggested football. It was the "safer" option.
Nunu, a three-year letterwinner and a captain of that '76 team, led the Cowboys in tackles that season with 127 tackles.
Twenty of those came that afternoon against a pesky Lobo squad that simply wouldn't go away.
It was a Nunu-caused fumble against Arizona State two weeks prior that saved the day for the Cowboys. It was another fumble caused by the Pokes' linebacker that gave Wyoming its first lead of the day against New Mexico.
"... Then on third down of its first possession of the third quarter, New Mexico tried an end-around play from its 22-yard line," the SI article reads. "The ball, the end and Nunu arrived almost simultaneously at the 15. With one massive stroke, Nunu stripped the ball clean from the end and smothered it at the New Mexico nine. Sophomore Quarterback Marc Cousins got the touchdown in three plays, putting Wyoming ahead for the first time at 17-14."
The Cowboy D would go on to block a punt, which led to another score. The Lobos found the end zone yet again late. A missed two-point conversion gave Wyoming the 24-23 victory.
Nunu, who was brought to Laramie by former head coach Fritz Shurmur, was as steady as they come. He finished his career ranked on the school's top-10 list in tackles. His 20-tackle performance against the Lobos is still third best all-time.
Nunu wasn't flashy. He was very much the hardhat, lunch-pail guy.
"I'd rather whip the guy in front of me than get a press clipping any day," Nunu told SI. "Especially when the guy's bigger."
The Cowboys finished the season 8-4 overall and punched their ticket to the Fiesta Bowl and a date with national power Oklahoma.
John Fletcher (2006-09) is still fifth all-time in career sacks at UW with 24. More than 10 of those came in 2007 when the sophomore bounced back from a freak finger injury that cost him the final three games of his freshman season in Laramie.
Think he was motivated to get back?
Those 10.5 sacks still rank ninth overall for a single-season.
That season against UNLV, Fletcher got to Rebel signal callers 3.5 times. That's the third-best single-game performance in program history. Fletcher was put on the Outland Trophy Watch List that season as one of the best defensive lineman in the nation.
When Fletcher wasn't busy terrorizing quarterbacks, he was still setting up camp in the opponents' backfield. Fletcher wrapped up his career with 36 tackles for loss -- 14 of them in 2007 -- which is still second all-time.
He had 3.5 that day against UNLV. Think they were glad to see him go?
Fletcher was named second team All-Mountain West as a sophomore and junior. He earned first-team honors as a senior.
Carl Granderson (2015-18) was another one of those tall play makers on the edge of the Cowboys' defensive line. The California product finished his career with 16.5 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss. Sixteen of those came in 2017 alone.
Granderson picked off three passes during his career in Laramie and forced three fumbles. He also scooped up a fumble and rumbled 60-plus yards for a touchdown in a 37-14 victory over Central Michigan in the 2017 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
He was a first-team All-Mountain West selection that season.
Granderson is a current member of the New Orleans Saints.
Brandon Casavan (1999-03) earned second-team All-Mountain West honors as a senior. He was the only Cowboy to be named more than an honorable mention during Joe Glenn's first season on the sidelines in Laramie.
In a stunning upset of BYU in 2003, Casavan got to Cougar quarterback Matt Berry twice. He also registered five tackles, three for loss, and recovered a fumble in the 13-10 win.
Who else wore No. 91
Sergio Villasenor, Keith Jackson, Gregg Peters, Ken Boris, Greg Kuhn, Aaron Willett, Riley Lange, Troy Boyland, Jaylen Pate, Greg Kuhn
*** All available rosters and photos courtesy of the University of Wyoming. If we missed one, please email Cody@7220sports.com. ***