Which Wyoming Cowboy wore it best? No. 31
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. 31 – Frosty Franklin
Running back, 1968-71, Powell, Wyo.,
Résumé in Laramie
Frosty Franklin carried the ball 496 times in three seasons in Laramie. His final stat line read like this: 1,834 yards rushing, 3.7 yards per attempts and four touchdowns. Franklin also caught 42 passes out of the backfield from Ed Synakowski, Scott Freeman and Gary Fox. Franklin’s best season came in 1971 when he rushed for 751 yards in 196 attempts. He found the end zone twice during his senior campaign. He also snagged 12 receptions for 105 yards. When he graduated, Franklin was the Cowboys' record holder for average number of rushes per game at 17.8. Brain Hill broke that in 2016 with 20.4 attempts per outing.
As if Frosty Franklin wasn’t a cool enough name, he also went by the moniker “Freight Train.”
That was an homage to his down-hill style of running. You know, the kind where linebackers end up on their backs and defensive backs “attempt” to make a tackle in the secondary? Franklin, standing 6-foot, 1-inch and 205 pounds was a bowling ball of muscle. He wasn’t the fastest or most elusive back to wear brown and gold, but he was arguably the toughest.
Franklin’s freshman squad went undefeated in 1968. Varsity won its third straight Western Athletic Conference title. The Cowboys won the Sun Bowl in 1966. They fought LSU to the end the following year in the Sugar Bowl.
All was right in Laramie and the Pokes looked to be not only going for the four-peat in 1969, but a possible national championship.
Well, the backfield duo of Joe Williams and Franklin was a major reason for optimism.
“They could [have made] up the best set of running backs in the history of Wyoming football,” Laramie Boomerang sportswriter, Doug Reeves, said back on Oct. 14, 1969.
“Could have” being the key words.
Williams and 13 other black players were kicked off the team by Lloyd Eaton for wanting to wear black armbands against BYU to protest racial policies in the Mormon Church. The days after the players were expelled, Franklin and the Pokes hammered the Cougars, 40-7. Wyoming would knock off San Jose State the following week.
The team didn’t win another game until beating Colorado State Oct. 10, 1970. That was a seven-game losing streak. The Pokes wouldn’t win another game in the ’70 season.
Oh, what could have been.
Conrad Dobler called the Wyoming teams of the early 70’s a “skeleton crew.” The program couldn’t recruit black players. Dobler said hundreds of white players tried out for the team, and most “couldn’t play for Laramie High School,” according to the former offensive lineman.
Franklin, however, was one of the exceptions.
The lumbering running back amassed 1,834 yards in his three seasons on the varsity squad. His teams only went 8-16 overall, but Franklin was a force out of the backfield and in the passing game. He caught 42 career passes for 357 yards.
Franklin led Wyoming in rushing all three seasons.
The squad was so decimated under first-year head coach Fritz Shurmur in 1970 that Franklin, along with plenty of other players, suited up on both sides of the ball and special teams. During that rout of BYU, Franklin returned a kickoff for a touchdown. It was called back on a clip.
Franklin’s nephew, Clint Franklin, who also starred at Powell High School, faced Mike Van Diest’s Carroll College team back in 2004. Van Diest played with Frosty at UW.
That day, the Rocky Mountain running back looked an awful lot like his uncle back in the early 70’s, rushing for 120 yards on 21 carries.
“He was one of my heroes, and one of the great all-time running backs out of Powell, Wyoming," Van Diest told reporters of Frosty Franklin after the game between NAIA foes. “I thought Frosty Franklin was one of those great names in sports. He was a heck of a running back, No. 31. His nephew runs just like him -- maybe faster than Frosty."
According to that article in the Billings Gazette, Franklin was a horse veterinarian in Spokane, Wash., before relocating to the San Francisco area.
Wynel Seldon (2005-08) was also named our honorable mention at No. 18. He split time between the two jersey numbers during his four years of dominance out of the Pokes backfield.
So, we figured, two honorable mentions equals a selection.
Seldon is the program’s fourth-leading rusher with 2,672 yards. He found the end zone 22 times. The San Diego native will always be synonymous with Devin Moore, who was the program’s all-time rushing leader until Brian Hill came around.
The duo was known as “Thunder and Lightning.” Seldon was the Thunder guy at 6-foot, 219 pounds.
Let’s throw a special shout out to another No. 31 who was one of the best Wyoming has ever seen, Dennis Devlin.
Devlin was a hard-hitting safety in the glory days of Wyoming football. You know, that time before Franklin came to campus?
Devlin was the second-leading tackler for the Cowboys in the 1968 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Even in the muddy, rain-soaked conditions, Devlin tuned up LSU receivers, tight ends and running backs to the tune of 10 tackles. Only Jim House finished with more with 11.
The sixth-ranked Cowboys fell five yards short of a victory over the Tigers that day, falling 20-13.
Speaking of safeties that would knock you out, John Salley (1979-82) was also one of the best Cowboys to ever wear the No. 31, though he did most of his damage with the No. 8 across his chest. He is still the fourth all-time tackler in program history with 379, just behind Andrew Wingard, Jim Talich and Galand Thaxton.
Salley’s 143 tackles in 1982 is tied for the second-best single season in the record books.
Who else wore No. 31
Ernie Jackson (DB), Jim Pennington (DB), Frank Miller (DB), Monti Perry (LB), Marcus Ford (LB), Jeff Tatnall (LB), Dan Marshall (RB), Jimmy DeAndrea (RB), Marcell Gipson (CB-also wore No. 2), Jeff Roveche (LB/DE), Chavez Pownell (S-also wore No. 7), Isaac Jefferson (WR), Dawson Booker (DB)
- All available rosters and photos courtesy of the University of Wyoming. If we missed one, please email Cody@7220sports.com.