UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 48
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, 1995-99, Arvada, Colorado
Here's why: Imagine you're a wide receiver walking into the locker room in Laramie as a redshirt freshman in 1996. There's Marcus Harris, who would go on to be the best pass catcher in not only program history but in the NCAA. There's also seniors David Saraf and Richard Peace.
Oh, and before those guys, there was another dude named Ryan Yarborough, who used to own all the marks Harris was in the process of breaking.
That's the exact scenario that was laid out in front of Wendell Montgomery.
No pressure, kid.
Montgomery is still No. 4 in career yards (2,883) and No. 6 in receptions with 181 to this day. In 1998, he was named first-team All-Western Athletic Conference. As a senior, he also earned first-team honors. This time in the Mountain West Conference. Montgomery is third all-time in consecutive games with a reception with 41 behind only Dominic Rufran (49) and Jovon Bouknight (47).
Alongside fellow rookie, Kofi Shuck, Montgomery always seemed calm, cool and collected. The 6-foot-2, 208-pounder could turn a short hitch route into a long gainer, just like the Biletnikoff Award winner before him. Montgomery didn't appear to be a speedster, but in high school he qualified for state in the 100, 200 and 400-meter as a junior.
Also like Harris, Montgomery wasn't big on flair or celebrations. He was a hardhat and lunch-pail player.
His best statistical season came when the Cowboys needed it most. There was a new head coach in Dana Dimel and a young quarterback named Jay Stoner. Those two were tasked with replacing Joe Tiller's "basketball-on-grass offense," which was perfectly orchestrated by record-breaking quarterback, Josh Wallwork in 1996.
All Stoner and Montgomery did was connect of 58 passes for 905 yards and four touchdowns while leading the Pokes to a 7-6 record. The foundation was laid for the following two years that saw UW win 15 more games.
Montgomery's 57 snags for 789 yards as a junior led the Western Athletic Conference in its final year of existence.
Tucker's take: Actually, this is Harris' take:
"The three of us seniors had him playing at a level he didn't even know he could reach," Harris said of Montgomery's 1996 campaign. "When we left, he was it. He was the leader. I always felt bad for him, but he was a big, solid kid. He had a lot of heart. Wendell was a beast. We developed him quicker than maybe he thought he should be.
"He's definitely an underrated Cowboy, for sure."
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (50), Robert Gagliardi (21), Jared Newland (NR), Ryan Thorburn (NR), Kevin McKinney (NR)
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.