UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 19
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.
Quarterback, 1995-96, Tracy, California
Here's why: My first thoughts: There was a great quarterback from California named Josh in Laramie long before Josh Allen came to town. Secondly, can you even begin to imagine what Josh Wallwork could've done to the school's -- the nation's -- record books in a four-year college career?
Man, it's fun and sad to think about.
Wallwork led the country's top offense in 1996, throwing for a record 4,090 yards and 33 touchdowns while leading the Cowboys to a 10-2 record and berth in the inaugural WAC Championship game. You might recall his final regular season game in Fort Collins. If not, I'll let Ryan Thorburn tell you that story below.
Despite playing just two seasons in Laramie, Wallwork is still in the program's Top 10 in six individual categories: career passing yards (5th - 6,543), career pass attempts (6th - 729), career pass completions (6th - 449), career touchdown passes (3rd - 54), single-season pass yards (1st - 4,090) and single-game passing yards (2nd - 485, 3rd - 453).
He also leads the way in career average yards per game (293.3), single-season yards per game (340.8 in 1996), average yards per pass attempt (8.9) and average yards per pass in a single game (15.3 against UNLV in '96).
Wallwork is still the only signal caller in Cowboys history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in a season.
He was the perfect conductor for Joe Tiller's pass-heavy offense. He was heavy on leadership and swagger. He stood tall in the pocket and delivered strikes all over the field to Biletnikoff winner, Marcus Harris, David Saraf and Richard Peace, during that record-setting '96 campaign.
Imagine four years of all that?
Thorburn's take: I remember watching “The Drive” — John Elway’s 98-yard march through Cleveland’s defense and the Dawg Pound to win the AFC championship — on television as a wide-eyed kid.
The memory isn’t as vivid as being on the scene for Wyoming’s version of "The Drive" as a cub reporter at the Casper Star-Tribune.
With a trip to the WAC championship game on the line, Josh Wallwork led the Cowboys on a methodical 14-play, 96-yard drive that bled 6 minutes, 17 seconds off the clock and delivered an unforgettable 25-24 victory over rival Colorado State on a wintry day in Fort Collins.
“The first thing that pops into my head is that it snowed Thursday, Friday, and all the way up until the game on Saturday,” Wallwork recalled in the Border War book. “Being from Hawaii and California, that was my biggest nightmare playing in those freezing-cold and snowy games. We were in our hotel in Fort Collins, and I remember walking up and looking outside my room and saw snow banked up against the building, and it was still snowing.
“I thought it wasn’t going to be any fun. It stopped snowing at game time, but there were huge banks of snow around the field.”
It turned out to be a lot of fun for Pokes’ fans. Wallwork, who had missed some snaps earlier in the game due to a knee injury, hobbled back out there Elway-style and was 6-for-8 passing for 68 yards on the drive, which was capped with a 6-yard touchdown run by Marques Brigham.
Beating the Rams in the legendary 1996 Border War is justification for making this top-50 list in itself.
But Wallwork did a lot more at Wyoming, including leading the nation in total offense (350.8 yards per game) while guiding the Cowboys to a 10-2 finish. His 4,090 yards passing yards in 1996 remain the single-season standard at Wyoming (Brett Smith’s 3,375 yards in 2013 rank second).
Wallwork (61.6%) and Smith (61.5%) are the only Cowboys complete over 60% of their career passes.
Despite playing in only 22 games over two seasons at Wyoming, Wallwork is still third on the program’s all-time list for career touchdown passes (56) and fifth for career passing yards (6,453). He is the all-time leader in passing yards per game (293.3) and yards per pass attempt (8.9).
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (26), Robert Gagliardi (32), Jared Newland (25), Ryan Thorburn (30), Kevin McKinney (4)
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
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.