LAS VEGAS -- 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. 36 – Gerald Abraham

Running back, 1984-87, Denver, Colo.

Résumé in Laramie
Gerald Abraham’s 1,305-yard performance in 1987 is still the fourth-best single-season mark for a Wyoming running back. His yardage total, coupled with 13 touchdowns during his senior season, earned him first-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors. Abraham is still the seventh-leading rusher in program history with 2,278 yards on the ground. He scored 17 touchdowns in his career and averaged five yards per carry. Abraham is part of the 1987 WAC Championship team that earned a trip to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. That squad was inducted into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018.

Why Abraham?
BYU had just dominated the first half.

They were up 14-0. They were playing in front of nearly 66,000 inside Cougar Stadium. It was as close to a must-win as possible for LaVell Edwards’ 3-2 squad. Wyoming was in the same position after falling to Washington State and Oklahoma State on back-to-back Saturdays.

Which team wanted it more?

The visitors. Gerald Abraham.

The senior from Denver gashed the Cougars for a game-high 91 yards on 20 carries. Abraham capped a 22-point third quarter for the Cowboys with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone. The Wyoming defense would stuff Mike O’Brien on a late 2-point conversion attempt, preserving a 29-27 win in Provo.

Wyoming would go on to win its next six regular-season games and clinch the school’s first WAC championship since 1976. BYU finished with one loss in conference play.

Abraham’s 1987 season is still the fourth best single-season performance from a Wyoming tailback. The punishing 6-foot, 2-inch, 220-pound back scored 13 touchdowns and averaged 5.5 yards per carry.

You weren’t getting him down on the first hit. Or the second and third, in most cases.

Wyoming would face No. 18 Iowa in the Holiday Bowl in Abraham’s final collegiate game. Abraham found the end zone late in the second quarter to give the Cowboys a commanding 19-7 halftime lead. The defense was doing everything right. The offense was doing just enough against Hayden Fry’s Hawkeyes.

The special teams – well, that was another story.

Iowa blocked a punt for a score and Merton Hanks got his hand on a potential game-winning field goal before eventually picking off Craig Burnett to end the game. Iowa prevailed, 20-19.

Abraham was a steady figure in a time of turnover on the Wyoming coaching staff. Al Kincaid recruited him. Dennis Erickson turned him into a workhorse. Paul Roach made him into a champion.

When Abraham’s career in Laramie came to an end, he was the program’s all-time leading rusher with 2,278 yards.

He wasn’t selected in the 1988 NFL Draft, but his hometown Denver Broncos gave him a shot as a free agent. That didn’t last. Abraham would finish the season with the Philadelphia Eagles. After spending the 1989 season in Kansas City, Abraham went to the Arena Football League where he played wide receiver and linebacker for the Denver Dynamite.

Honorable mention
This guy only rushed for five yards in his four-year collegiate career. He snagged 108 yards worth of passes. He never scored a touchdown.

But he did do this:

That all but clinched a Border War victory over Colorado State.

Drew Van Maanen (2014-17) was not racking up stats, but he did the dirty work that led to team success. Known for his caked on eye black, a large black neck roll and going sleeveless and without socks even on the coldest of nights in Laramie, Van Maanen was a fan and team favorite.

His tattoos and mohawk just added to the ideal fullback look.

He created holes for all-time leading rusher, Brian Hill. He kept Josh Allen upright. He lit up linebackers and blocked down field for Tanner Gentry, Jake Maulhardt and Jacob Hollister, among many others.

During his first two seasons in Laramie, Wyoming won just six games. During the last two, the Cowboys went to back-to-back bowl games and won a Mountain Division title.

How’s the saying go … Those who stay will be champions.

Our next No. 36 “never flinched.”

Weston Johnson (2006-2009) was a standout linebacker for the Pokes for Joe Glenn and into the Dave Christensen era. He tallied 229 career tackles, including 106 during his senior season. He also picked off three passes that season and racked up 2.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss.

That 2009 season ended with a 35-28 overtime victory over Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl. Johnson finished his final game with five tackles and recovered a fumble in the win.

Johnson impacted the Wyoming football program on the field. Maybe more so off.

In 2014, Johnson succumbed to melanoma, a form of skin cancer. The linebacker from Wray, Colo., battled the disease for two years.

He was just 27.

Who else wore No. 36
Randy Brown (FB), Greg Grignon (LB), Reggie Fowler (RB), Marvin Williams (RB), Laumont Gadlin (WR), Chuck Polson (S), Phil Schabron (RB), Chris Stanton (K), Andy Deselms (S), JC Trautwein (LB), Brandon Bell (CB), Eric Mitchell (S), Sam Awrabi (DE), Will Tutein (S)

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