While this year’s NFL Draft didn’t have the same impact or resonating effect with Pokes’ fans as last year’s did — i.e. Josh Allen — it was still special. Only one Cowboy was selected, Marcus Epps, but his journey is a captivating one.

Epps came to Laramie from Los Angeles, California. Talk about a culture shock.

He traded the big-city shoes for cowboys boots, the sunny beaches for the Wyoming wind, and the warm winter weather was replaced by temperatures residing well below zero.

Epps did all of that without a scholarship. He walked onto a Pokes team, more than 1,000 miles from where he grew up, that was fresh off a 5-7 season.

The free safety would earn a scholarship in his first three seasons and graduate from UW in 2018 as a three-time team captain. Epps deserved to hear his name on national television, and the Minnesota Vikings gave him that honor with their sixth-round pick.

However, Epps wasn’t the only Cowboy that warranted a selection this past weekend. His safety teammate, Andrew Wingard, also should have been drafted but for whatever reason wasn’t.

Wingard — who was a four-year starter at strong safety for Wyoming — finished his career as the Mountain West Conference’s all-time leader in tackles. He deserved a ceremonious Saturday. How could 30 NFL teams miss on a player of Wingard’s status? Did 30 NFL teams ignore what he did for four years in Laramie and only focus on a combine performance?

When evaluating talent, shouldn’t the first thing teams look at is how a player does on a football field? After all, that’s what teams are looking for, right? Someone who can perform at a high level on the field.

Why would teams value what a player bench presses or runs in a 40-yard dash over on-field production? Last time I checked there aren’t any bench presses on a football field.

What does exist on a football field are sidelines. Wingard showed for four years that he can patrol every square inch between the sidelines.

Wingard excelled for four years, the last two of which were on a defense that ranked inside the top 25 nationally. For four years, Wingard piled up the tackles, from a safety position, to become a MWC legend.

There’s isn’t a shred of doubt in my mind that Wingard will enjoy a successful NFL career. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who signed Wingard as an undrafted free agent, got an absolute steal.

Wingard joined a large group of Wyoming players that signed as undrafted free agents. Nico Evans — who led the MWC in rushing last season and deserved to be drafted, as well — signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. Tight end Austin Fort remained local and signed with the Denver Broncos, and fellow tight end Tyree Mayfield signed with the San Fransisco 49ers.

Linebacker Chavez Pownell Jr. and defensive lineman Sidney Malauulu were invited to the 49ers rookie mini camp, and Kevin Prosser rounded out the future Pokes in the pros signing with the Canadian football Calgary Stampede.

 

Pokes Notes

University of Wyoming’s men’s golf team finished seventh at the Mountain West Conference championships last weekend. Former Sheridan Bronc Kirby Coe-Kirkham placed in a tie for 14th at 6-under par.

The Gold Team won Wyoming’s annual Spring Game 14-9.

UW wrestlers Montorie Bridges and Tate Samuelson were named Scholar All-Americans by the National Wrestling Coaches Association.