LARAMIE -- The Outland Trophy is handed out annually to the top interior defensive lineman in all of college football.

T'Vondre Sweat was that guy in 2023.

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The 6-foot-5, 362-pound tackle was also dubbed a unanimous All-American selection. The American Football Coaches Association, the Associated Press, the Football Writers Association of America, the Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation gave him that distinction.

So did ESPN, The Athletic, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, USA Today, FOX Sports, Phil Steele and Pro Football Focus.

Named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year by a number of other outlets, Texas' monster in the middle -- also fittingly nicknamed "Meatloaf" -- was also a semifinalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and Bednarik Award. Those distinctions go to the top overall and defensive player, respectfully, in the country.

 

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Sweat's 2023 résumé included a career-high 45 tackles, including eight for loss, a pair of sacks and five pass breakups. He also added a blocked kick and snagged a 2-yard touchdown reception. That grab came in the first quarter of the conference championship game, a dominating 49-21 victory over Oklahoma State.

He even struck the Heisman pose.

Those accolades above make it hard to overlook a comment Sweat made in late February at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

A reporter asked Sweat who was the toughest player or offensive line he faced last fall? In an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show in March, that question was posed again.

His answer didn't change.

"I wouldn't even say I had the toughest player, but I would say, the toughest group, it would be shoutout to the guys that play at Wyoming," Sweat said at the 5:44 mark.

"Wyoming?" Eisen responded with surprise in his voice.

"That was a great group," Sweat added. "It was a great group of guys."

"No kidding? That wouldn't be the one that would jump out at me," the national talk show host followed up with.

Sweat finished with just three tackles in a Week-3 victory over the Cowboys. One of those came behind the line of scrimmage in the second half as the visitors took a 10-10 tie into the fourth quarter against the third-ranked team in the country.

Harrison Waylee rushed for 110 yards in Austin, including breaking off a 62-yard dash to the end zone in the first quarter. Wyoming finished with 155 yards on the ground, an average of 4.1 yards per carry.

The Longhorns boasted the No. 3 rushing defense in the FBS in 2023, allowing just 82.4 yards per game en route to a College Football Playoff appearance.

Evan Svoboda, making his first-career start under center, was sacked just once in the 31-10 setback.

Texas averaged nearly three quarterback takedowns an outing, capping the year with a total of 32.

The game plan against the 'Horns front four that night inside Darrell K. Royal Stadium was a simple one: Double team.

"Let's put four on two all game," starting guard Jack Walsh recalled Tuesday in Laramie. "You just have to hone in on your technique and just play ball."

Walsh, a 6-foot-3, 313-pound junior, said he can still remember the first time he saw Sweat on film. The big man made five tackles in a 37-10 rout of Rice. Two words came to mind when viewing that footage.

"Oh S---. He's a lot to deal with," he said with a laugh. "I mean, the week before they played us, they got after Alabama. So, it's right there. They're not hiding. But it was a great challenge. That's the stuff that you live for, you know, playing on that stage in front of 100,000 people. That's what you dream about."

Nofoafia Tulafono, Wyoming's starting center, echoed Walsh's statement about double-teaming not only Sweat but his 6-foot-1, 308-pound running mate Byron Murphy.

The junior nose guard finished with just two assisted tackles against Wyoming. Murphy did catch a 1-yard touchdown pass from Quinn Ewers in the second quarter to give the home team a 10-7 lead.

Tulafono said the Cowboys brought their "A game" deep in the heart of Texas, but that outing reminds him more of what could have been.

"It would've felt even better when he said that if we, as a whole line, did that the rest of the year," he added. "... It should be every game we're treating like Texas."

Wyoming offensive line coach Joe Tripodi also caught wind of the compliment. He said that's a product of the toughness Craig Bohl's instilled in this program.

"It's a credit to our guys up front and how they work," he said. "The whole room. It's just a real credit to those guys."

 

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Frank Crum, moments after working out for nearly 30 NFL scouts at the Cowboys' annual pro day in Laramie, dished some of that credit back to Tripodi, along with Bohl and former offensive coordinator Tim Polasek.

Never shy about his thoughts, Crum said Sweat's comments meant a lot to him.

"I think it was really cool for Sweat to acknowledge us that we were the toughest O-line that he went against, because they did go up against a ton," the Laramie native said, adding that league personnel told him they focused on that Texas game when watching Crum's game film. "They were a Top-4 team in the country at the end there ... (We're) a hard-nosed program. We're going to wear you down all game. That was the M.O."

Walsh repaid the kind words, saying Texas was the toughest front the Cowboys faced all year, too.

"Just seeing those types of comments from guys that are going to go in the first round of the NFL Draft and will get paid millions, it's great," he said. "We just went out there and, you know, did our best to try to get after it. To hear that stuff, it's a nice validation. It puts a smile on your face, for sure."

Jay Sawvel said lack of confidence isn't an issue with his starting five, but added words like that, from a decorated player like that, will push him to make that unit take yet another step this fall.

"I think that was a really good compliment to our players," Wyoming's first-year head coach said. "That was a really good thing. I think that's good for our players and it's good for coach Tripodi. You know, we have a high expectation for that group."

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