UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 23
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.
Running back, 1958-60, Lingle, Wyoming
Here's why: Bob Devaney's bell cow, Jerry Hill was named the Wyoming Football Player of the 20th Century during fan balloting in 1992, according to his Hall of fame plaque.
Oh, and he received that honor the following year, becoming one of the first players in Cowboy history to be enshrined, joining names like Jay Novacek, Mike Dirks, Fennis Dembo, Kenny Sailors and others in that inaugural class.
That gives you a good idea of what Hill meant to this program.
His Cowboys went 25-6 during his three-year stint in Laramie and claimed a 14-6 Sun Bowl victory over Hardin-Simmons after going 8-3 in 1958. The '59 UW team pitched four shutouts and held its opponents to seven points or less in eight games while going 9-1. They didn't receive a postseason invite.
Hill never lost a game to rivals BYU or Colorado State, either.
That's always a nice feather in the cap.
Hill claimed back-to-back All-Skyline Conference honors during his final two seasons on campus. He also led the team in rushing and scoring, tallying 86 points. Hill was also an honorable mention All-American in those two seasons.
He finished his career with 1,374 rushing yards on 288 carries. Hill was selected in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts in 1961. He was also taken by the Denver Broncos in the AFL Draft. They took him in Round 2. Hill eventually signed with the Colts and played eight seasons for the franchise, winning a Super Bowl in 1971.
He is still eight on the team's all-time rushing list with 2,668 yards.
Tucker's take: Obviously I wasn't alive to see Hill play in Laramie or in the NFL, but when I heard he had a beer named after him -- Colt 45 -- I knew I had to know more about the man from little ol' Lingle, who played six-man football in eastern Wyoming.
Watching the grainy YouTube footage, it appears Hill was a slippery back with a knack for finding the hole. Hill scored the lone touchdown for the Colts in that Super Bowl III loss to "Mr. Guarantee" Joe Namath.
From a town of less than 500 to taking handoffs from Johnny Unitas is about as cool as it gets, right?
Kevin McKinney, who come to think of it would've made way more sense to write this blurb than me, did pen a story about Hill back in 2020.
The farm kid didn't even want to play college football.
"Nope, never really gave that a thought until my senior year when (Wyoming coaches) Mike Corgan and Jim Ross showed up at the farm and offered me a scholarship to go to school and play football for the Cowboys," Hill told McKinney. "I have to say I was surprised. But what could I say, but 'sure.'"
Back to the beer. How in the world did that come about?
"They wanted to name the product Colt 45," Hill told McKinney. "I just happened to be the Colt who was wearing 45.
"I wish I would have gotten paid for it, but the big advertisers had deals with the league at that time, not the players. I've thought about writing them and saying, 'hey you owe me money so I can catch up with the guys who are making big money now. I haven't done it yet though."
Hill is truly a Wyoming treasure.
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (17), Robert Gagliardi (NR), Jared Newland (42), Ryan Thorburn (10), Kevin McKinney (16)
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
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.
POKES: The Seven Best Games In The History Of The Wyoming-CSU Border War Rivalry (Naturally, they were all Wyoming wins)