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. 28 – Andrew Wingard

Safety, 2015-18, Arvada, Colo.

Résumé in Laramie
This Wyoming safety capped his collegiate career with a program best 454 tackles – 274 solo and 180 assisted. That is also tied for the Mountain West’s all-time record with New Mexico linebacker, Carmen Messina. His 131 tackle 2016 is the 10th best in program history. Andrew Wingard picked off 10 passes and forced five fumbles in 51 games. He also finished with 25 tackles for loss. Wingard was an All-American candidate entering his senior season. He was a freshman All-American. He was also the 16th player in MWC history to be named back-to-back-to-back first-team All-Conference. Wingard earned second-team honors as a freshman.

Why Wingard?
When you lead an entire football conference in all-time tackles, you’re making this list.

When you only received one Division-I scholarship despite being the Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year out of high school, you’re making this list.

When you picked on Colorado State and Air Force throughout your career, two of your home-state schools that didn’t offer you, you are definitely making this list.

That man is Andrew “Dewey” Wingard.

You think Wingard loved playing the Rams and Falcons? Try these numbers on for size.

In his final three games against CSU – all Wyoming wins – Wingard racked up 26 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack. In last season’s 34-21 road win over the Rams, Wingard lit up CSU tight end, Cameron Butler, forcing the ball up into the air.

It landed gently in the awaiting arms of UW linebacker Cassh Maluia.

Wingard’s best game against the Rams came in a 17-tackle performance in 2016. It was the final game at Hughes Stadium. The Cowboys prevailed, 38-17.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. I’m watching Wyoming on defense, and this 28 just keeps making play after play,” CSU coach Mike Bobo told reporters at last season’s conference media days in Las Vegas. “Like I do when we play any team, I’m like, ‘where’s he from?'”

Oops.

In his last three games against the Falcons – all Wyoming wins – Dewey put 24 tackles in the sack column, including a pair of tackles for loss and a game-clinching interception in the snow last season in Laramie. On senior day, Wyoming’s top senior snagged an errant pass from Air Force quarterback Donald Hammond.

The 6-foot, 214-pound Wingard dropped to his knees and extended his arms before being trucked by Falcons wide receiver Andrew Smith. His teammates rushed to his defense, but Wingard just wanted to celebrate his moment. It was the last time he would play a game at War Memorial Stadium.

Wyoming won the wild come-from-behind affair, 35-27.

“I honestly, to be straight up with you, was not recruited by CU, CSU or Air Force,” Wingard told reporters in 2017. “CU actually talked to me the most. Theirs was, ‘Come to our camp. We’ll watch you in a game.’ Then after that they just kind of blew me off. That was really it.”

Their loss was Wyoming’s gain.

Wingard will always be remembered for the way he threw his body around and the golden locks that cascaded out of the back of his helmet. He played with intensity and passion. Though undersized, his motor was relentless.

He showed up in big moments, picking off a pass in both bowl games he played in. When receivers and tight ends ran into No. 28, they typically ended up on their wallet.

Surprising to most, Wingard went undrafted in 2019. He signed a free agent deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Honorable mention
Derek Armah (2000-03) will go down as one of the most underappreciated running backs in school history. During his four years in Laramie, the Cowboys limped to a record of 9-37.

If there was a lone bright spot on most Saturdays, it was Armah.

Despite the mounting losses, the New Jersey native gashed his way for 2,190 yards and 15 touchdowns. His yardage total is still good enough for eighth in school history.

Armah seemed to scratch and claw for every yard he gained. With morale all but gone, defenses keyed in on No. 28. He still found a way to keep the Cowboys offense as balanced as possible.

Prentice Rhone (1992-93) was a hard-hitting safety on Joe Tiller’s defense.

He also had a nose for the football, picking off three passes while garnering first-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors as a senior.

Rhone didn’t just prowl the defensive backfield, he returned kicks and punts. That’s where he made a name for himself.

Rhone is still the school record holder in return yards per punt (15.4), return yards per game (79.9) and fielded a program-high 13 punts in a game against Oregon State. The elusive speedster also holds the kick return yards per game record (51.6) and his ’93 campaign is still the standard, averaging 56.1 kick return yards per contest.

Who else wore No. 28
Warren Capellan (G), Mel Meadows (S), PJ Wells (S), Hasan Muhammad (CB), Tim Beasley (RB, also wore No. 7), Courtney Barnes (LB), Michael Medina (CB), Austin McCoy (K/P), Tim Gleeson (P), Nehemie Kankolongo (LB), Garrett Gardner (RB), Austin Clemetson (RB), Easton Gibbs (LB), Warren Capellen (LB), Don Rees (WR/DB)

  • All available rosters and photos courtesy of the University of Wyoming. If we missed one, please email Cody@7220sports.com.