UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 17
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.
Offensive tackle, 1993-96, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Here's why: Steve Scifres allowed five total sacks in his four-year career in Laramie. That came on nearly 1,800 pass attempts.
Read that again.
We could stop right there and crown him, especially playing offensive tackle in Joe Tiller's spread attack, but why?
Scifres started all 47 games he played at UW and was named the WAC Freshman of the Year after helping lead the Pokes to the Copper Bowl in 1993. He was the only lineman in the history of the conference to earn that honor. Scifres also earned first-team All-WAC honors in 1995 and '96.
The big guy from Colorado Springs protected quarterbacks Joe Hughes, John Gustin and Josh Wallwork. He opened running lanes for running backs like Ryan Christopherson, Len Sexton and Marques Brigham.
He was the anchor of a 1996 offense that was tops in the nation, averaging nearly 500 total yards per outing, including 359.2 through the air. Wallwork is still the lone signal caller in UW history to eclipse the 4,000-yard passing mark in a single season.
"This pick is a no-brainer," former UW wide receiver and teammate Marcus Harris said. "Dude was legit. He made the bar higher for that line. Scifres anchored that thing like nobody's business."
In '96, a year the Cowboys went 10-2 and played in the inaugural WAC title game, Scifres was named a first-team All-American by the FWAA, joining teammates Harris and Cory Wedel.
Scifres was named one of 13 semi-finalists for the Outland Trophy, which is given to the top lineman in the country. He was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round of the 1997 NFL Draft.
Newland's take: Steve will go down as one of the best offensive linemen to ever wear the Brown and Gold.
Back in the 80’s & 90’s it was rare to see a freshman or a sophomore get any reps on the offensive line unless it was in a blowout or forced in to duty because of injuries, let alone be a starter. Not only did Steve start every game of his career (47), he was named the WAC “Freshman of the Year” in 1993, another rare feat for an o-lineman.
When you think about offensive linemen you don’t get too excited, but they are the anchor of an offense because a team is only as good at the protectors up front. Over my time of watching the Cowboys I can think of guys like Dan Cudworth, Quentin Skinner, Tyrone Fittje, Cody Kelly, Mike Fitzgerald and the list goes on.
Just a bunch of tough dudes.
Then there was Jeff Smith and his pancake block against the all-everything Ohio State linebacker, Andy Katzenmoyer, on ESPN. That block even got Lee Corso fired up. But Steve Scifres was different, he was the best of them all.
In the pass happy offenses of Joe Tiller, Scifres only gave up a total of five sacks in four years and 1,751 pass attempts and zero in 465 attempts as a senior.
No offense to Joe Hughes, John Gustin, Jeremy Dombeck, Josh Wallwork, John Davis and Kelley Pratt, but none of them were the kind of running, athletic quarterbacks you see today.
Scifres was different, he was the best.
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (19), Robert Gagliardi (31), Jared Newland (24), Ryan Thorburn (20), Kevin McKinney (9)
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
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.
Wyoming Cowboys football players in the NFL: Then and now