LARAMIE -- Ryan Marquez was recruited in hopes he would be the next great quarterback at Wyoming, following in the footsteps of Josh Allen.

That didn't happen.

He's served in about every other role, though.

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The junior is currently listed as a wide receiver. He also serves as a gunner on the Cowboys' special teams unit. He blocks, too. Marquez even held kicks for John Hoyland. He stepped into that spot during a COVID-19 shortened 2020 campaign and last fall.

The 6-foot-1, 199-pound Arvada, Colo., product had a decorated career under center at Pomona High School. During his three seasons as a varsity starter, Marquez threw for 6,467 yards. He added 55 touchdowns through the air. He led the Panthers to a 5A state championship during his senior year and was named a First Team All-State quarterback.

So, what happened?

It might not be the answer you expected to hear.

"It's definitely been a long ride for me coming in," Marquez said. "I mean, I had a lot of success in high school and I wanted to play quarterback. That's what they said they would give me an opportunity to do. My only regret is, I kind of knew earlier that I wanted to switch, but I was listening to people telling me stick it out, stick it out and stuff like that. So, my only regret is I didn't switch to a skill position sooner."

Marquez was buried on the depth chart behind quarterbacks Tyler Vander Waal, Nick Smith and Sean Chambers early in his tenure. Injuries also served as a setback. With Chambers set to be the starter for the foreseeable future in Laramie, Marquez finally made the switch.

It was short lived.

Chambers, who was also Marquez's roommate, suffered a season-ending leg injury on the third play from scrimmage during the '20 season. That left Levi Williams and a pair of true freshmen, Gavin Beerup and Hank Gibbs, as the only options. With a worldwide pandemic raging, sending players into isolation left and right, Marquez found himself back in the QB room.

"At the time, they didn't know the playbook very well," he said. "So I had to go back to quarterback play backup that season."



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Williams took a majority of the snaps during that six-game slate, but also suffered a shoulder injury in Week 2 that hampered him throughout. Craig Bohl and Co. eventually went to Beerup, who entered in the fourth quarter of losses to New Mexico and Boise State.

How close was Marquez to throwing his first collegiate pass?

Marquez isn't sure. He never really had a fighting chance.

"I don't know how comfortable they were with Gavin at that point, but then I had COVID," he said. "My house just (quarantined) week to week, so we ended up being locked in the house for 30-some days."

Though Marquez transitioned back to wide receiver -- and has one catch and two rushing attempts this season -- he has found a home on special teams.

Early in the third quarter of Wyoming's home opener against Tulsa, Marquez came flying off the left edge, laid out and blocked a punt. The ball fluttered in the air. Players from both sides skied for the loose change.

Marquez, despite prematurely starting his celebration, realized quickly the play wasn't over.

"It felt like a blur in the moment, for sure," he said. "It's just like a couple of noises. A thump of your hands, hitting the ground, getting up seeing the ball kick away and the fans start to go. That was a really big moment for me personally."

The Cowboys would eventually outlast the Golden Hurricane 40-37 in double overtime.

For Marquez, he said it feels like he's finally solidified his role in this program.

"I can be a part of something big this year, something that hasn't been around here in a couple years, it's felt like," he added. "So, just being able to do my part and do what this team needs me to do, that's a big deal to me.

"But, yeah, getting in the end zone, seeing my family after the game -- and my friends happen to be at that game, too -- it was a great feeling."

Marquez's teammates see the work he's putting in, too.

"That was that was a big play," UW cornerback Cam Stone said of Marquez downing a punt inside the 1-yard line late in regulation against New Mexico. "I'm really proud of him. He's one of the top special teams players in the country right now. I swear, he does good stuff every week for us. But I'm really proud of him and I'm grateful for him. To have a guy like that, a workhorse, he'll do whatever you tell him."

Marquez said this season has served as a breath of fresh air. From finding his niche to the closeness of the guys in the locker room -- and most importantly, winning -- he said there's one word that describes it all.

"It's just fun. We're having fun," Marquez said. "Our coaches emphasize celebrating with each other and lifting each other up. That's something I'm enjoying this season."

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