Which Wyoming Cowboy wore it best? No. 3
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. 3 – Al Rich
Safety/ Running back, 1997-00, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Résumé in Laramie
Al Rich was a first-team, All-WAC selection in 1998, leading the Cowboys with 74 tackles as a sophomore. He finished his career with seven interceptions, including three in 1999. Rich was named WAC Defensive Player of the Week on Nov. 9, 1998, after a 10-tackle performance against Colorado State. He also picked off a pass and caused a fumble.
Coming off an oft-injured season in 1999, in which Al Rich finished with 75 tackles, three interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries from the safety position, he wasn’t thrilled with his performance. A year prior he was named first-team all-conference, becoming only the 10th Cowboy football player in program history to earn that honor as a sophomore. As a junior, he wasn’t even an honorable mention.
He had higher expectations for himself.
“It was kind of a disappointment for me because I always have such high expectations for myself," Rich said in 2000 during the Mountain West Conference Football Media Day.
Known as a hard-hitting safety who wasn’t afraid to lay his body on the line, Rich, who was 5-foot, 11-inches and 197 pounds, was cemented in the Pokes’ secondary. He was feared by wide receivers and tight ends. Head coach Dana Dimel knew it, too.
Then Dimel left for Houston. Enter Vic Koenning, Rich’s defensive coordinator during his first three seasons. Surely, he knew the value in having one of the top safeties in the nation, right?
Instead, Vic Koennning baffled everyone, placing Rich in the offensive backfield as a running back for his final season in Laramie. Rich knew he had decaying in his wrist. His shoulder was banged up. Here’s what Koenning had to say about Rich entering the 2000 season.
"We're going to count on Al in ways nobody in Wyoming has seen Al Rich," Koenning said. "Al is an explosive player and everything like that, but the best thing about Al Rich is he's a good person. There's an expression that to expect perfection, you may get excellence. Al expects that of himself every day with every practice. He typifies a Wyoming football player."
That’s why Rich accepted his new role, even though rival coaches like Colorado State’s Sonny Lubick handed out compliments like this.
"Two years ago, he was as good a player as there is around," Lubick said. "The thing I like about him is he may not be the fastest player in the league, but when the ball is in the air, he gets there, and he knocks the heck out of you.
"Al Rich is one of those players who makes big hits and inspires everyone around him."
Rich carried the ball 13 times for 35 yards for the 1-10 Cowboys. He missed a majority of the year with an injury. You guessed it, to his wrist.
Rich took part in theater in his college days. His biggest acts came on Saturdays – when he played his natural position. He became a police officer after school. He specialized in defensive tactics, close-quarter battles and restraining, among other things.
Sound like a running back to you?
Melvin Wells didn’t put up huge numbers. He caught just 23 passes for 478 yards and three touchdowns during his time in Laramie. But, he was a nice compliment to Ted Gilmore, Freddie Dussett and Shawn Wiggins on the 1988-89 squads.
Quarterbacks Randy Welniak and Tom Corontzos sure thought so, anyway.
Who else wore No. 3
Terrance Butler (CB), Troy Lewis (DB), Travis Burkhalter (WR), Kody Sutton (RB), Luke Anderson (S), Trey Norman (WR), Jeff Lark (LB), Joseph Parker (WR), Patrick Glass (QB), Damon Turner (RB), Jason Holanda (LB), Jeremy Silcox (QB), Darryl Salmon (QB), Alijah Halliburton (S), Milo Hall (RB)
- All available rosters courtesy of the University of Wyoming. If we missed one, please email Cody@7220sports.com.