This year, the University of Wyoming tight/full-back room has a distinct home-state feel. Of the 10 players on the roster listed in either or both of those positions, four of them are from Cowboy State.
And that’s fine with tight ends and full-backs coach Shannon Moore.
“It’s great because these are kids who love the program and are proud of it,” Moore said at UW Media Day earlier this month. “They grew up loving the Cowboys, so you always feel like it means a little bit more to them. These children are going to give us everything they have.
Two of the players in the room — Sheridan tight end/fullback Parker Christensen and Thunder Basin fullback Caleb Driskill — started multiple games for the Cowboys last season. Mountain View’s Kimball Madsen, who is listed as a fullback, joined the team last season. And Isaac Schoenfeld, the Rock Springs tight end, was part of the UW’s latest recruiting class.
People also read…
Moore also has connections with Wyoming outside of coaching tight ends and fullbacks and as the Cowboys’ special teams coordinator. He was the head coach of the Wyoming Cavalry – a Casper-based semi-pro team that competed in the National Indoor Soccer League from 2004 to 2005 – during which time he also helped coach the team Kelly Walsh football.
Christensen, Driskill, Madsen and Schoenfeld are continuing a tradition head coach Craig Bohl established shortly after taking over the program ahead of the 2014 season. This year’s UW roster features 11 players from the state, marking the seventh consecutive season, the number of players from the state adapting to the Cowboys is in double digits. In 2012, there were only four Wyoming players on the roster.
“Coach Bohl does a great job of getting guys to buy into our culture,” Moore said, “but still having these guys from Wyoming is something special. The approach that Coach Bohl takes to bring these guys into our program is special for these kids and I think the state coaches appreciate it as well.
Other State players on this year’s team include right tackle Frank Crum, a Laramie junior; starting defensive tackle Jordan Bertagnole, a sophomore from Casper, Natrona County; Big Horn sophomore wide receiver Will Pelissier; Buffalo second-year kicker Luke Glassock; free safety of redshirt rookie Andrew Johnson of Cheyenne Central; redshirt freshman linebacker Nic Talich of Cody; and first-year catcher Isaac Sell of Laramie.
“I feel like I’m living life,” Pelissier said. “Wyoming kid playing Wyoming football.”
“Another Home for Me”
After his first season at Rock Springs, Schoenfeld was ready to step away from football.
“I was really frustrated,” Schoenfeld said. “But then Mark (Lenhardt) became the new coach and convinced me to play ‘one more year’. He convinced me to give him a chance and I’m where I am thanks to him.
Lenhardt and the Tigers coaching staff also talked him out of playing quarterback and moved him to short end. The move paid off as the 6-foot-5 Schoenfeld was a two-time all-state draft pick and helped lead Rock Springs to the Class 4A state championship game last year.
As the only true freshman tight end on the roster, Schoenfeld is willing to bide his time and absorb what he can from veterans.
“In the tight end room there is a lot of experience so I will have to wait my turn, which was expected,” he said. “Right now I’m just learning from them and seeing what they’re doing and taking whatever I can from them. That’s going to help me the next two years to make an impact here.
“These guys took me under their wing and helped me a lot,” he added. “The narrow end room is like another home to me.”
‘An incredible experience’
Madsen was an all-state quarterback and running back at Mountain View, where he helped lead the Buffalos to three state championship games and state titles as a second and senior. After graduating in 2021, he was scheduled to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before changing his mind and deciding to attend UW last fall. He contacted Moore, who had been in contact with him since his senior season, to let him know he was on campus. Soon after, Madsen was on the Cowboys roster, although he had some catching up to do.
“When I got here it was like day six or day seven so they already had a lot of facilities and I had no idea what was going on,” laughed Madsen. “And I had never played forward or back before and now I play both of those positions.
“Now that I’ve been here for a year, Coach Moore and all the guys in the tight ends room have done a great job coaching me,” he added. “It was overwhelming from the start, but I never had any doubts. It was an amazing experience to be here.
Madsen knows he’s unlikely to crack in the tight end or full-back rotation this year, but he’s still hoping to see some live action.
“Most guys start their college careers on special teams,” he said. “So that’s where I’m working hard at the moment to show that I can help the team because I would really like to get on the pitch this season.”
“The Big Horn Package”
Pelissier had a high school storybook career at Big Horn. A three-time all-state draft pick, he was an integral part of the Rams’ back-to-back undefeated Class 1A/11 Men’s State Championship teams in 2018-19.
He had offers to play elsewhere, but instead chose to be a favorite extra at UW. The 6-foot-3, 201-pound speedster said there was no doubt he would play for the Cowboys.
“Growing up, this is the team you wanted to see every Saturday,” he explained. “Especially for someone like me who comes from a small town, that means a lot.”
Pelissier played in all 13 games last season, both as a receiver and on special teams. There was even a shout out to his hometown in some situations.
“A lot of coaches call me Big Horn,” he said. “Last year there would have been a personal package where they would include the Big Horn name and that’s when I would come in. They would call it the Big Horn package.”
For Pelissier, who had attended games at War Memorial Stadium since he could remember, the thrill of putting on the maroon and gold jersey is special. And he knows his fellow Wyomingites on the team feel the same way.
“Having all these Wyoming kids on the team is awesome because we have this deep-rooted pride,” he said. “It was great to see that during Coach Bohl’s tenure because when I was growing up that wasn’t the case and there didn’t seem to be much hope for a Wyoming kid. Coach Bohl give the kids of Wyoming a chance, and I think that’s all we really want.
“It means everything to me”
Johnson did a lot of everything for Cheyenne Central on both sides of the ball while earning back-to-back all-state honors as both a wide receiver and defensive back for the Indians in 2019-20.
These days, however, the 6-1, 191-pounder is all about the defensive side of the ball. Along with playing on special teams, he also hopes to enter the free safety rotation.
“Having been here for two summers and a spring and fall camp, I’m more comfortable with the playbook and I understand football better,” he said. “It gives you a lot of confidence and allows you to play defense instead of trying to figure it out and feeling like you’re skating on the ice.
“I just want to be ready if my name is called,” he added. “I want to be as good as possible on special teams to put myself in a position to help the defense later on.”
Although Johnson is stronger and faster than he was in high school, he has seen the biggest growth in his game under the helmet.
“My mental understanding of the game has increased more than I ever imagined,” he admitted. “Now instead of just doing what’s on the game map, you see adjustments as the game unfolds and you know you have to fall into that gap or you have to do different things just because of the attack.”
Like his teammates in the state, Johnson is proud to play for the capital letters “WYOMING” on the front of his jersey.
“It means more than words can say,” he said. “I grew up coming to the Pokes games. And it’s not just football, it’s what I was raised in…it means everything to me.
Follow sportswriter Jack Nowlin on Twitter @CASJackN