I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I arrived on the campus at the University of Wyoming. Located in Laramie, the State Capital, the population of the city is around 30,000 people. After landing and taking in the scenic mountains in the background, I felt as though I couldn’t breathe. And that was for good reason, as the elevation in Laramie is 7,300 feet. To put that into perspective, in Seattle and Portland we are at sea level. The weather was beautiful and I caught a great time to make my first visit.
Wyoming football is a program on the rise. They were in and out of the Top 25 rankings from week to week last year, and had a good enough record that they were invited to play in a bowl game. Head Coach Dave Christensen took the program over a few years ago, and they’ve been making strides ever since. I was excited to get to Wyoming for a couple of reasons. First off, their starting QB last year was Brett Smith, a West Salem HS in Oregon graduate. He is a Barton Football alum and earned Freshmen All American status last year. I wanted to get out to Laramie and see exactly what the place he calls home looks like. I got a chance to meet up with Brett out there, as he was busy doing team summer training. It was cool to see how far he’s come, and how big his name is out there now.
I was also excited to go see Coach Pete Kaligis. Pete is a great guy and someone who I’ve come to know as a good friend. He had coached at Washington when I played there, so we have a long history. Pete is the OL coach and also in charge of recruiting Oregon and SW Washington for the Cowboys. He has done an amazing job of recruiting this area, as the Cowboys brought in almost 10 kids from the NW in last year’s recruiting class. Pete took the time to show me around the campus and facilities, and the result is the footage that you’re able to watch connected to this write up. The thing that makes Pete such a great recruiter is two fold: First, when he watches and evaluates a kid and likes him, he’s not worried whether or not anyone else has offered that kid or not. If he likes him, he’ll offer him. The second thing that really separates Pete is that he genuinely cares about the kids. Of course he’s recruiting them and wants them to come to his school. But he truly wants the kids to do what’s in their best interest, even if that means going somewhere else. I’ll give you an example. Wyatt Houston, a QB/TE out of Horizon Christian HS in Oregon was being recruited by Pete to Wyoming. Wyatt eventually chose to commit to Utah State. Upon hearing the news, Pete asked me for Wyatt’s email. Later that day, Wyatt told me that Pete had sent him an email congratulating him on the offer and commitment to Utah State and wishing him the best of luck. Those kind of things are rare in this industry, and that’s why Pete has developed such a good name among recruits, their parents, and HS coaches.
I also want to quickly give Coach Chris Tormey a shout out. He’s the Cowboy secondary coach and Defensive Coordinator, as well as the man responsible for recruiting the State of Washington. He’s a great guy and another great recruiter. I’ve known him for a while as well and had a great chance to visit with him while in Laramie. He really wants to sign a bunch of kids from the NW as well, and thus far has put his money where his mouth is.
I was excited to meet Head Coach Dave Christensen. Not only had I never met him before, I had never even talked to him. Knowing that, and knowing how a lot of College Head Coaches are, I didn’t expect much time or effort from him when I was there. The exact opposite ended up being the case. After Pete introduced me to Coach Christensen in the middle of the field during camp, he walked up and down the field with me for half an hour just talking. That right there tells you the quality of man that he is. During my conversation with Coach Christensen, it became apparent very quickly why Wyoming is doing so well and headed in the direction that they are. He’s an excitable guy, someone who is just very passionate about his work. During camp, he walked around from position to position and literally watched every single kid take their rep. Most Head Coaches take a stroll around the field so everyone can see them out there, then they leave. I went to some College Camps where I didn’t even see the Head Coach the entire day. So what Coach Christensen did absolutely blew me away. The other thing that was immediately noticeable was that he really cares about all the kids that play for him. He wants them to have the best College experience possible, both as a student and as an athlete. He also mentioned to me that next year for our Showcase Event he and his WHOLE staff are going to get out here and be in attendance.
As far as the campus and facilities at Wyoming, I was pleasantly surprised. Like many of you, I wasn’t sure if I was going to have to catch a cab from the airport to campus or a Wagon. I’d never been there and the vision I had of the place was something in the direction of “Little house on the prairie”. However, it was nothing like that. In fact, I did end up taking a cab not a wagon from the airport to campus. As we came into town, the 1 thing you could see from any spot in the city was War Memorial Stadium, the place where Wyoming plays their home games. The city of Laramie itself wasn’t huge(30,000), but it had every amenity you could ask for. Subway, McDonalds, and all the other different restaurants and fast food chains you can think of are out there. The only difference is that instead of having 4 Subways, they only have 1. Instead of 4 McDonald’s they only have 1. The Campus at the University of Wyoming is very big, but very open. There are a lot of buildings, but not many of them more than 1 story. Campus is spread out, so if you go there I highly recommend you take or buy a bike. The thing that stood out to me the most was how friendly everyone was there. Every person I walked by smiled and said hello, and anyone that I stopped to ask a question took the time to stop and actually help me out.
The athletic facilities were pretty impressive. The thing I liked the most was how centrally located everything was. The indoor practice facility, the game stadium, and the football complex were all located right next to each other. The football building houses the coach’s offices, player locker room, training room, and weight room. If you head outside of that building, about a 30 second walk away is the indoor practice facility. This is a huge building that houses a full length and full width football field. With the weather that hits Laramie in the late fall through the early spring, this building is essential for the football program. It allows them to get all of the work or practice that they need during or outside of season, without being affected by the wind, rain, or snow. About a minute walk from the indoor practice facility and the football complex is the game stadium, War Memorial. I’d seen games on television, and played video games in the stadium, but never seen it in person. I actually got chills when I walked onto the field, just thinking about what it’s like on game day and envisioning all of our NW athletes playing there.
Overall I would give Wyoming a solid B. The biggest downside about it is actually getting there. But once you do, you’ve got everything in a college town, campus, and athletic facilities you could ask for. They easily have one of the best staffs in America, and have a program that will be a consistent Top 25 team in the polls on a yearly basis. They are doing things the right way there, both on and off the field. After spending time in the city, on the campus, and with the staff around the football facilities, I’m totally sold on Wyoming. Not only do I put my blessing on kids from this area going there, I recommend it. And if what their starting QB Brett Smith, a NW product, just did last year as a freshmen is any indication of what your experience will be like, I think you’ll want to go check the place out yourself.
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