UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 6
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.
Wide receiver, 1990-93, Park Forest, Illinois
Here's why: This guy just might have invented the term swagger.
He had all of that and more, but he also backed it up on the field.
When the dust settled on Ryan Yarborough's Wyoming career, he was the NCAA's all-time leader in receiving yards (4,446) and 200-yard receiving games (5).
To this day no one has snagged more touchdown passes than Yarborough, who has 42, four more than Marcus Harris.
Yarborough was the program's first two-time All-American. The first came during his junior season when he hauled in 86 passes for 1,351 yards and 12 touchdowns from quarterback Joe Hughes. He got even better as a senior, catching 75 balls for 1,584 yards and 16 scores.
When Yarborough eclipsed the 4,345-yard mark, he surpassed Pacific wide out, Aaron Turner, as the top pass catcher in college history.
The Illinois product broke or tied five NCAA records during his senior campaign as he helped lead the Cowboys to a berth in the Copper Bowl and a date with Kansas State. Yarborough tied for the most 1,000-yard seasons (3), becoming only the fourth player in the history of college football to accomplish that feat.
To this day, Yarborough is still the program leader in career and single-season touchdown grabs. He is still ninth in NCAA history in receiving yards.
He was selected in the second round of the 1994 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. He played for New York, Baltimore and the Saints.
It takes 10 years post-college career to be enshrined into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame. In 2003 -- exactly a decade after graduation -- Yarborough earned that ultimate honor.
Newland's take: When I think back about watching Ryan Yarborough play wide receiver I think of a guy who ran some of the most precise routes in the smoothest possible ways. It was like he was gliding on the field.
After leaving Wyoming as the all-time leader in receiving yards in NCAA history and to still be ranked 9th all-time 28 seasons later pretty much sums up his career and so deserving of his spot on this list.
Two memories that involve Ryan. 1.) The Pokes started the 1993 season off by hosting a pesky Northern Iowa team led by Kurt Warner. Wyoming was down late in the fourth quarter, and if my memory serves me right, the Pokes took their final timeout and head coach Joe Tiller was talking over the play with quarterback Joe Hughes. Yarbs walked up and heard the play and he said 'no, I think we should run (insert play).'
Tiller looked at Hughes and said are you good with that? He nodded yes. The play was to throw the ball up in the east corner of the north end zone and Yarborough would go up and get it.
Pokes win, avoid a horrible home loss, and go on to win a share of the WAC Championship.
2.) When I was a student athletic trainer during the same years Yarbs played, I was fortunate enough to be with the wide receivers group for a couple of seasons. Not only was I with them during almost every practice but also during games.
I remember standing close to then-wide receivers coach Kevin Sumlin during games and he would ask me on a rare occasion what play I thought the Pokes were running when they broke the huddle. Since I was with them during practices, I knew the lingo. I would make a guess and he would say, 'just say touchdown.' Low and behold, a few times the Pokes would throw over the top to Yarbs for a score after sucking the defense up on previous plays.
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (4), Robert Gagliardi (11), Jared Newland (6), Ryan Thorburn (7), Kevin McKinney (11)
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, No. 18, No. 17, No. 16, No. 15, No. 14, No. 13, No. 12, No. 11, No. 10, No. 9, No. 8, No. 7
Cody Tucker: Brand Manager 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.