UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 16
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.
Tight end, 1982-84, Gothenburg, Nebraska
Here's why: Jay Novacek as the epitome of an all-around athlete.
He has the accolades to prove that:
* First team All-Western Athletic Conference tight end
* Kodak consensus All-American
* NCAA record holder for yards per catch by a tight end with 22.6
* Track and Field All-American
* WAC decathlon champion
* UW record holder in pole vault (16'4") and decathlon (7,615 points)
Did anyone enjoy 1984 more than Novacek?
The pass-catching speedster from Nebraska played in Al Kincaid's wishbone attack in Laramie. Quarterbacks Craig Johnson, Brad Baumberger and Scott Runyan weren't asked to do too much in the passing game. When they weren't targeting Steve Martinez, Chris Kolodziejski or Allyn Griffin, they were typically hitting Novacek in stride. He caught 83 career receptions for 1,536 yards and 10 touchdowns.
In 2008, Novacek became just the second former Wyoming football player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, joining Eddie Talboom.
The eventual three-time Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys was also enshrined in the inaugural Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame in 1993.
Thorburn's take: The Al Kincaid era at Wyoming was the definition of mediocrity considering the coach finished his run in Laramie with a 29-29 record over five seasons (1981-85).
That included an up and down 6-6 finish in 1984, a .500 season highlighted by a close 41-38 loss to eventual national champion BYU in Provo and a 43-34 Border War win at Colorado State.
But there was nothing average about No. 84.
Jay Novacek, despite playing in Kincaid’s wishbone offense, was a consensus All-American after setting the NCAA record for yards per reception by a tight end (22.6) in 1984.
Before becoming a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys, Novacek finished his career with the Wyoming Cowboys with 83 receptions for 1,536 yards and 10 touchdowns.
In 2008, Novacek joined Eddie “Boom Boom” Talboom as the only Wyoming players inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Not bad for a kid from Gothenburg, Neb., who turned down a late scholarship offer from Nebraska out of loyalty to an early commitment to Wyoming, where he would also be allowed to compete on the track and field team.
That worked out pretty well for Wyoming, too. Novacek set the school pole vault record, was the WAC champion in the decathlon and finished fourth in the decathlon at the NCAA championships to earn All-American honors.
Novacek also competed in the 1984 U.S. Olympic Trials before being selected in the sixth round of the 1985 NFL draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.
If you want to toast this top-50 all-time Wyoming player, raising a glass of Novacek 84 Proof would be appropriate.
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (16), Robert Gagliardi (15), Jared Newland (14), Ryan Thorburn (9), Kevin McKinney (31)
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
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.