UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 18
LARAMIE -- During this summer series we are going to countdown the Top 50 football players in Wyoming history, presented by Premier Bone & Joint Centers, Worthy of Wyoming.
The rules are simple: What was the player's impact while in Laramie? That means NFL stats, draft status or any other accolade earned outside of UW is irrelevant when it comes to this list.
This isn't a one-man job. This task called for a panel of experts. Joining me is Robert Gagliardi, Jared Newland, Ryan Thorburn and Kevin McKinney. We all compiled our own list of 50 and let computer averages do the work. Think BCS -- only we hope this catalog is more fair.
Don't agree with a selection? Feel free to sound off on our Twitter page @7220sports.
Defensive tackle, 1965-67, Monticello, Iowa
Here's why: In Mike Dirks' three-year playing career in Laramie his defense pitched four shutouts and held opponents to 10 points or less in 18 of 32 games. Aside from a pair of blowout losses to Utah and Southern Cal in 1965, Wyoming surrendered 20 points or less in 30 of those contests.
The team went 26-6 over that span.
Dirks' D was legit.
Maybe that's why he was named an All-American by the Writers of America, Look Magazine and Newspaper Enterprise Association in '67. The Cowboys big defensive tackle was also named first-team All-Western Athletic Conference and a team captain of that UW squad that fell just short against LSU in the Sugar Bowl.
Wyoming boasted the top rush defense in the nation during Dirks final two seasons in Laramie. No other team in NCAA history allowed less yards on the ground than those 1966 and '67 squads. Dirks was responsible for clogging the middle in an era when most teams went to the ground-and-pound offense.
Dirks registered 71 tackles during his college career, including 26 tackles for loss.
The Iowa product was one of five Cowboys selected in the 1968 NFL Draft, joining Jerry DePoyster, Jim Kiick, Mike LaHood and Paul Toscano. Dirks was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fifth round. No other draft in pro football history has featured that many UW players.
Dirks was enshrined in the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame in 1993. He was joined in that inaugural class by other Cowboy greats like Jerry Hill, Jay Novacek, Kenny Sailors, Fennis Dembo and others.
Dirks was also on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot in 2014.
Tucker's take: In 2011, Bleacher Report released a feature naming the "greatest defensive players all time" from all then-120 FBS programs.
Wyoming obviously has some great names that could've been considered -- Galand Thaxton, Dewey McConnell, Larry Nels, Aaron Kyle, Mitch Donahue, among many, many others.
They chose Dirks, selecting him No. 64 overall.
"Dirks was a DT and key cog in the Wyoming legendary defenses in 1966 and 1967. In '67, he was voted a co-captain and was an All-American and All-WAC selection. His specialty was stopping the run, and he led a Cowboy DL that set rushing yards allowed records in two consecutive seasons. He is in the Wyoming Sports Hall of Fame."
I picked Dirks too low. I'll be the first to admit that.
Those defenses under Lloyd Eaton were special. Making it to a Sugar Bowl was special. Finishing Top 10 in the national polls is special.
Dirks was special, too.
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (32), Robert Gagliardi (23), Jared Newland (23), Ryan Thorburn (18), Kevin McKinney (8)
Previous selections: No. 50, No. 49, No. 48, No. 47, No. 46, No. 45, No. 44, No. 43, No. 42, No. 41, No. 40, No. 39, No. 38, No. 37, No. 36, No. 35, No. 34, No. 33, No. 32, No. 31, No. 30, No. 29, No. 28, No. 27, No. 26, No. 25, No. 24, No. 23, No. 22, No. 21, No. 20, No. 19
Cody Tucker: Brand Manger and creator of 7220sports.com. Tucker has covered the Cowboys since June of 2019, but was a season-ticket holder for nearly three decades. Tucker has also covered Michigan State University Athletics for the Lansing State Journal and Detroit Free Press and the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins during his 10-year journalism career
Robert Gagliardi: Former sports editor and University of Wyoming beat reporter for WyoSports. Gagliardi covered the Cowboys from more than a quarter century. He also covered the team at the Branding Iron, the UW student newspaper. Gagliardi also co-authored the book: The Border War: The Bronze Boot Rivalry Between Colorado State and Wyoming
Jared Newland: Currently the local sales manager for Townsquare Media SE Wyoming, Newland worked with and around Wyoming athletics for 20 years, starting as a student athletic trainer in 1990. Newland has also served in the Sports Information Office, the Cowboy Joe Club, Wyoming Sports Properties and was a UW Athletics Hall of Fame Committee Member from 2002-14.
Ryan Thorburn: Currently covering the Oregon Ducks for The Register-Guard, Thorburn also covered the Cowboys in the early and mid-90's for the Branding Iron and Casper Star Tribune. He has also written four books about Wyoming Athletics: The Border War: The Bronze Boot Rivalry Between Colorado State and Wyoming, Cowboy Up: Kenny Sailors, The Jump Shot and Wyoming’s Championship Basketball History, Lost Cowboys: The Story of Bud Daniel and Wyoming Baseball and Black 14: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Wyoming Football
Kevin McKinney: Currently the senior associate athletics director for external affairs at the University of Wyoming, McKinney also serves as the radio color commentator for Wyoming football and men's basketball. McKinney has been involved with UW Athletics in some capacity since 1972. He was also inducted into the Wyoming Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2015.