Wyoming Cowboys in the NFL Draft: A Preview and a Review of the Pokes on Draft Day
The NFL Draft kicks off tonight and a few former Wyoming Cowboys are hoping to hear their name called this weekend.
The most likely Pokes player to be drafted is Linebacker Mark Nzeocha, who is projected as a mid to late round pick. Teams looking for a Quarterback late in the draft might take a look at former Cowboy signal caller Brett Smith. Although Cornerback Blair Burns probably won't be drafted, he will likely get the chance to play in training camp as a free agent.
Last year, two Cowboys were selected in the same draft for the first time since 1997. Cornerback Marqueston Huff was chosen by the Tennessee Titans in the fourth round, went on the make the team and scored his first NFL touchdown in week 14 when he returned an interception against Eli Manning and the New York Giants.
Wide receiver Robert Herron was drafted in the sixth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Like Huff, Herron made the team and finished his rookie season with six catches, including one for a touchdown.
If you're looking for Wyoming's last first round draft pick, you'll have to go all the way back to 1976, when Running Back Lawrence Gaines was selected by the Detroit Lions with the 16th overall pick. Cornerback Aaron Kyle was taken 11 picks later by the Dallas Cowboys. Gaines went on to play three years in the league, while Kyle had a six year career that ended with the Denver Broncos after the 1982 season.
The only other first round pick from Wyoming was Defensive Tackle Ron Billingsley, who was taken by the San Diego Chargers with the 14th overall pick in the 1967 draft. Billingsley spent three years in San Diego before being traded to the Houston Oilers in 1971. After another three injury plagued years in Houston, the 6'8" tackle retired in 1972.
Wyoming has also had several players selected in the second round. Wide Receiver Ryan Yarborough was drafted by the New York Jets in 1994 and spent four years in the league as a member of the Jets, Packers and Ravens. In 1989, Defensive Back Eric Coleman was picked by the New England Patriots in the second round. Sadly, injuries cut Coleman's career short after only one year.
Of course, the round they're drafted in doesn't always determine how successful a player's professional career will be. Just ask Tight End Jay Novacek. After being drafted in the sixth round by the then St. Louis Cardinals in 1985, Novacek was later traded to Dallas and went on to make five Pro Bowls and win three Super Bowls with the Cowboys.
Other notable Wyoming players who went on to have successful careers in the NFL include Running Back Jim Kiick, who played in three Super Bowls as a member of the Miami Dolphins in the late 60's and early 70's. Guard Conrad Dobler made three Pro Bowls as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 70's and is widely regarded as one of the meanest players in NFL history.
Running Back Jerry Hill played eight seasons with the Baltimore Colts in the 60's. Another Pokes Running Back, Dave Hampton, spent eight years with the Atlanta Falcons in in the late 60's and early 70's. in 1972, Hampton led the NFL in all purpose yards and was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1975.
All told, 79 Wyoming players have been selected in the NFL Draft, dating back to 1947. Of those, 65 former Pokes have gone on to play in the league. Hopefully, we'll be adding a few more names to that list this year.