LARAMIE -- Jay Sawvel joked Tuesday that he revoked Kaden Anderson's "athlete card."

That's what happens, Wyoming's rookie head coach said, when you waste a golden opportunity to pick up yards on the ground by tripping over yourself.

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"He didn't pick his feet up through the hole and fell over," Sawvel said with a smile, referring to the redshirt freshman quarterback. "He told me he's still getting back to being an athlete."

There is some validity to that statement. Consecutive ACL tears will do that to a guy.

"I actually broke through the hole, but I'm also clumsy," Anderson said with a laugh. "I took a little tumble."

 

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The surgically-repaired right leg has all but sidelined the 6-foot-4, 223-pound quarterback for the better part of the last two years.

The first setback came during his sophomore season at Southlake Carroll, one of the premiere high school programs in Texas. That came on a quarterback draw. The knee gave out, he said, after a "weird" cutback.

Anderson was named the starter under center the following year, thrust into the lineup before the 2021 season when the nation's top recruit, Quinn Ewers, decided to forgo his senior season in order to cash in on his name, image and likeness at Ohio State and later the University of Texas.

Anderson led the Dragons to a 14-1 record, throwing for 3,026 yards and 34 touchdowns. He completed better than 60% of his passes and tossed just eight interceptions.

Anderson was named to the 4-6A First Team All-District squad. Before his senior campaign, The Dallas Morning News listed him as one of the top recruits in the state. Dave Campbell's Texas Football Magazine called him one of the Top 10 QB prospects, referring to Anderson a "sleeper" and stating "He has the size and can spin it with the best of them."

He could -- when he was on the field.

A seemingly harmless tackle out of bounds on the sideline during a Week-6 win over Keller the following season left Anderson with that old familiar feeling.

"I landed a little weird and I knew immediately what had happened," he said last April. It was another ACL tear in the same knee.

His high school career was over, leaving his future in football in serious doubt. That, Anderson admitted, was the first thing that crossed his mind. Though he had already committed to Wyoming before the season, he openly wondered if that offer still stood?

It did.

In fact, former head coach Craig Bohl asked Anderson to come to Laramie early in order to take advantage of around-the-clock rehab and dive headfirst into the playbook.

He did.

Fast-forward one year and the grin that creases Anderson's face might as well be permanent. Though Anderson was cleared for contact last September, the plan has always been to bring him along slowly. He ran the scout team throughout the 2023 season as he attempted to master Tim Polasek's pro-style offense.

He was healthy, but tentative.

"He's made big strides this spring," Sawvel said. "... There were times (last year) it was like, 'Hey, you're the quarterback -- be more assertive. Take charge. Even though you're running (the other team's plays), you're in charge. You're the quarterback. I've seen that growth from him. Like, when he's out there on the field, he's doing that. So, I'm optimistic about where his growth is right now and I like what I see from him so far."

In last Saturday's open scrimmage inside War Memorial Stadium, Anderson looked comfortable in the pocket, firing out routes and seam passes in the third-team offense.

Yes, those injuries are still in the back of his mind. How could it not? Anderson admitted that he's been lifting his right leg up when bodies fall around him. It's subconscious. He didn't know he was even doing that until he reviewed the film. The large black knee brace helps calm some of those fears.

 

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There are plenty of kinks to work out, a new offense to learn. Anderson said he cleared the first hurdle, proving to himself he can still play at a high level. Consistency is a work in progress.

Now, he's building trust.

"This time last year, all the guys were like, 'Who the hell are you? Like, are you even good or not?'" he said. "Now I feel like I've been able to prove myself on the field a little bit and it's been really great. I feel like the guys are finally like, alright, you know, this guy's worth a damn. We'll keep him around a little bit.

"... It's really just been like a blessing from God, you know, just getting back out here. I'm just so much happier now than what I was this time last year."

University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players

During the summer of 2021, 7220Sports.com counted down the Top 50 football players in University of 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 7220's Cody Tucker are Robert GagliardiJared NewlandRyan 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 fairer.

Don't agree with a selection? Feel free to sound off on our Twitter: @7220sports - #Top50UWFB

Gallery Credit: 7220Sports.com

- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players

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