Undersized in High School, Wingard Became Big-Time Pro Prospect at Wyoming

TheCowboy

Wyoming free safety Andrew Wingard took advantage of the summer programs at the University of Wyoming, and last month, a semester shy of the completion of his fourth year in Laramie, Wingard was able to graduate.

Good thing.

Looks like he is going to be busy the next couple of months.

Saturday, he will be in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he will participate in the 94th East-West Shrine Game. And then comes a trip to Indianapolis Feb. 26-March 4 when he will take part in the NFL Scouting Combine, which indicates he has the attention of NFL drafts as they prepare to the draft this spring.

Guess it shouldn’t be a surprise considering the fact, Wingard was a 2nd team All-Mountain West selection as a freshman, and a first-time selection in the next three seasons.

And Wingard was the Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year in 2014, his senior season at Ralston Valley High School. Having become a two-way player his junior year, he accumulated 96 tackles his senior year, while finishing up his high school career with 3,251 yards and 52 touchdowns rushing, including a 1,653-yeard, 28 touchdown senior season.

Or maybe it should be a surprise considering the fact he not only stood 5-foot-11, but after tipping the scales at only 143 pounds his sophomore years, struggled to add only 18 more pounds by the time of high school graduation. What’s the market at the Division I level for a 161-pound running back?

Not much, as Wingard found out. He hit plenty of camps. He thought he might be able to stay in state considering his career at Ralston Valley High. He participated in workout opportunities at the University of Washington, and Mountain West schools San Diego State and Utah State, and a CSU workout at Denver South High School, but never did get a chance to visit Fort Collins and did not find any interested at the University of Colorado.

He wound up at Wyoming, where Craig Bohl was entering his second year as a head coach, and his first full year of recruiting for the Cowboys. Bohl was more than willing to take a shot at the undersized Wingard. Hey, he knows part of building a foundation for the Cowboys involved finding players that can be developed. Finish products don’t find their way to Laramie very often.

And then there was a relationship with Wingard’s father, Dan, who was a punter at Nebraska, when Bohl was an assistant coach with the Cornhusker. The Cowboys offered, and Wingard, who also was offered by Division I-AA North Dakota State. There was no hesitation on his part. He was going to Laramie for college.

The one condition, Bohl said, was Wingard had to put his passion for skiing the double black diamonds on hold.

Four years later, Wingard admits, that was a concession that was well worth what he has been through.

“This was the perfect place for me,” said Wingard. “I love the outdoors. I love to hunt and fish. I like the small-town atmosphere. It’s not for everyone but it was great for me.”

Wingard has been great for Wyoming, too. While the Cowboys were 2-10 in Wingard’s freshman year, they made back-to-back bowl appearances when he was a sophomore and junior, and went 6-6 this past fall, and Wyoming was one of four bowl eligible teams that was shutout in terms of a post-season invitation.

In the process, he amassed 464 tackles, equaling the MW record held by Carmen Messina of New Mexico, coming up 13 tackles why of the Wyoming record set by Galand Thaxton from 1984-87, when the Cowboys were still members of the West Athletic Conference. He also finished 22nd all-time in NCAA history, four tackles shy of moving into 20th place, ahead of the totals amassed by Abdul Hodge at Iowa, and Derick Johnson at Texas.

Most important, however, Wingard feels he has helped get Wyoming’s football program back on track.

“Being a part of this senior class, laying the foundation for Wyoming football is really, really cool,” said Wingard. “It’s cool to have been blessed with the opportunity coach Bowl gave me.”

And the Cowboys are blessed that Wingard took advantage of that opportunity.

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