The most improbable and remarkable NFL Draft stories in recent memory took place last week in Dallas. And both had a Wyoming twist.
One story comes from a well-known narrative that bears repeating — one that still feels fairytale-like. A few years ago, Josh Allen stood as just a tall, lanky ranch kid. He embodied similar dreams as any kid in the world, shooting hoops outside or playing touch football his with his buddies; he wanted to play professionally.
Many kids have aspirations of playing a sport for a living, but the statistics don’t exactly make those dreams realistic. However, that doesn’t mean kids should stop chasing them — Allen never did. In the pursuit of such dreams kids learn a great deal about humility, hard work and dedication.
Allen grew up in the small town of Firebaugh, California, a meaningless dot on a map that won’t make an impression on many. He did everything growing up from swimming to football.
Not many residents in town missed Friday night Firebaugh High School football games, but the few that needed a little extra nudge, Allen gave them an undeniable one. He wowed fans on the field with an innate ability to manipulate the game.
The same tike the people of Firebaugh saw working on irrigation pipes in the fields of his family’s ranch thrived in between the hashes. But no one outside the community seemed to notice.
No collegiate offers found their way into the mailbox; the phone didn’t ring once. But Allen refused to give up on the dream. He maneuvered his way to a little-known junior college, Reedley College, and once again astonished the few JUCO football supporters with his talent.
Finally, a call came, a coach arrived and a dream stayed afloat.
The dream chaser captivated Laramie and the once little-known rancher was the biggest thing at the University of Wyoming in quite some time. Allen elevated a 2-10 football team into one that won eight games and hosted the Mountain West Conference championship game.
Allen garnered all sorts of attention and, as head coach Craig Bohl said this past week in Sheridan, “The UW brand has grown exponentially,” with Allen’s national reach. Allen valiantly returned to UW for his junior season and captained a struggling offense that had a realistic shot at returning to the MWC championship game in November until Allen injured his shoulder.
Last week, Allen walked across the stage as the No. 7 pick in the draft. The small-town ranch hand that attended junior college and played at UW found his way to the pinnacle of his sport.
Another improbable story coming out of the draft occurred later in the first round, but it was significant nonetheless.
Taven Bryan of Natrona County went No. 29 overall. Bryan took a little more of a high-profile path to achieve his NFL dreams. He stood out as a Mustang and accepted an offer to play football at Florida. He excelled with the Gators against Southeastern Conference competition and navigated his way to a first-round draft pick.
A high school kid from the least-populated state in the country worked his way into a first-round draft choice.
Allen and Bryan’s paths show that it is possible.
Their red-carpet recognition gives proof that no matter where someone comes from — whether it’s a ranching community in California or a high school in Wyoming — that he or she can achieve even the unlikeliest of dreams with a lot of dedication and hard work.