University of Wyoming graduate out of Florence, Alabama. He was taken 10 picks after Purdue quarterback Bob Griese, one of eight Hall of Famers taken in that draft, which lasted 17 rounds.
It was a different era then. The Chargers were still three years away from joining the NFL, but 1967 marked the first of three combined drafts between the two leagues, which had agreed to merge the year before. San Diego was led by coach and general manager Sid Gillman, a future Hall of Famer in his own right.
In the decades since, the NFL draft has become an ever-increasing spectacle. This year, it just might hit a new height. For the first time, the entire three-day, seven-round event will be shown on broadcast television. NFL Network, FOX, ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC are all getting in on the TV action. And an NFL stadium — the Cowboys’ colossal AT&T Stadium, also known as “Jerry World” — will host the event for the first time.
But for all that has changed and all the time that has passed, no University of Wyoming player has been drafted higher than Billingsley in 1967, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.
At least, until Thursday.
Quarterback Josh Allen, who burst onto the scene as a draft prospect in 2016, is considered by many experts and analysts to be a possibility to go first overall to the Cleveland Browns in this year’s draft. Even if he falls, few think he will get past the first five spots. Even fewer believe he will get past both Miami at No. 11 and Buffalo at No. 12.
And even if Allen does fall short of eclipsing Billingsley’s UW record of 14th overall, he will all but certainly make history. Just three Wyoming players have ever been selected in the first round: Billingsley, running back Lawrence Gaines (1976, No. 16 to the Detroit Lions) and cornerback Aaron Kyle (1976, No. 27 to the Dallas Cowboys).
Billingsley spent six years in the AFL and NFL, playing in 61 games and starting 35. The all-Western Athletic Conference tackle also played for the Houston Oilers and was traded to the New Orleans Saints before retiring in 1973.
Gaines spent three years in the league, all with the Lions, rushing for 892 yards with six total touchdowns. At Wyoming, he rushed for 1,528 yards, including 894 his senior season, with six total touchdowns.
Kyle, a member of the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame, was an all-WAC honoree as a senior captain. It was his first year at cornerback after playing safety the previous three years. According to the hall of fame’s website, he “twice led Wyoming in unassisted tackles, total defensive points, punt returns and punt return yardage.” He had a seven-year NFL career, four with Dallas and three with Denver. He recorded 11 career interceptions and was credited with one safety and nine forced fumbles.
There have been 85 University of Wyoming players drafted into the NFL, three of whom were chosen in AFL Drafts by teams that later joined the NFL. Three Cowboy quarterbacks have been drafted into the NFL: Jim Walden (1960, 16th round to Cleveland), Rick Egloff (1967, sixth round to Oakland) and Casey Bramlet (2004, seventh round to Cincinnati). None of them recorded any NFL statistics.
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Last season, Wyoming had two players drafted: running back Brian Hill (fifth round, Atlanta) and offensive lineman Chase Roullier (sixth round, Washington). They were the first Cowboys selected in the draft since 2015.
Defensive back is the position where Wyoming has produced the most draftees (13). Wyoming’s most recent selection in the top two rounds was wide receiver Ryan Yarborough in 1994 (41st overall to the Jets). The Cowboys haven’t had a third rounder since 1997 (guard Steve Scifres, 83rd overall to Dallas) or a fourth rounder since 2014 (defensive back Marqueston Huff, 122nd overall to Tennessee).
In 1968, five Wyoming players were drafted, tying a program record from 1961, though two of the latter players were selected in the AFL draft. That record will not be broken this year, as other prospects from this class of Cowboys are considered potential third-day selections at best. If Allen is selected first overall and no other Wyoming players are drafted, it will mark the first time since 2013 (Eric Fisher, Central Michigan) that a school has had that happen.
Another draft record that won’t be broken by a Wyoming player this week: Fullback Mike Davenport is the lowest-selected Cowboy to be drafted (Pittsburgh, 1967): 428th overall. That record, a reminder of a bygone era, is likely here to stay.