CHEYENNE – Graedyn Buell thought he had a good chance of being named Wyoming’s football player of the year by Gatorade.
The announcements were slated to come months later than usual because several states moved their seasons to the spring due to COVID-19, but Buell wasn’t waiting on pins and needles in anticipation of the news.
“Going into the season, my goal wasn’t to be Gatorade player of the year, it was to win a state championship, and that’s what we did,” the Cheyenne East senior said. “Getting Gatorade player of the year was going to be icing on the cake.”
Buell got his just desserts Thursday morning when he was announced as the state’s top football player.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder helped lead the Thunderbirds to an 11-1 record and the Class 4A state championship last fall. He threw for 3,065 yards and 38 touchdowns against just five interceptions. He also rushed for 968 yards and 15 more scores.
“If you want to talk stats, his numbers are unreal,” East coach Chad Goff said. “But his leadership was also tremendous.”
Buell’s passing yardage total is the second-best single-season effort in state history according to Wyoming-Football.com. The 2,989 yards he passed for as a junior are third-best. He also threw for 35 touchdowns as a junior.
The fact he could better those numbers is a sign of how much Buell grew over the course of his high school career, Goff said.
“The game slowed down for him, and he made better decisions every year,” the coach said. “He understands the game so well. There were times he checked us into better things, or he got up to the line and drew the defense off sides.”
Buell was East’s starter for three seasons, but also was the starter during his lone year of high school in Rock Springs. He credits the T-Birds’ coaches for helping him improve as a player.
“A lot of the game slowing down is understanding coverages, defensive fronts and what the defense is trying to do,” he said. “Coach Goff, coach (Kirk) Nelson and coach (Paul) Garcia did a good job of teaching me that stuff to help slow the game down.”
Buell rushed for 235 yards and four touchdowns during East’s 29-15 come-from-behind victory over Thunder Basin in the Class 4A state championship game. A fierce wind held East’s prolific passing attack to just 12 attempts that afternoon.
Three of Buell’s rushing scores came in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t think we had a game with four rushing touchdowns all year; that’s just not what we did,” Goff said. “But doing that in the state championship is a credit to Graedyn, but also to our linemen and receivers, who were 100% committed to blocking.
“To reel off those touchdowns like he did in the fourth quarter was fantastic. It was truly a beautiful thing with how it ended.”
Buell joins Lee Vaughn (1992), Ben Stratton (2001), Alex Stratton (2007) and Tevis Bartlett (2014) as Gatorade player of the year honorees from East.
Buell has not decided where he is going to play college football. He has several offers, and has talked to some schools who are waiting to see how their depth charts shake out after spring practice before making offers. Buell is in no hurry to make his choice.
“I don’t want to be rushed and be somewhere I don’t fit or don’t want to be because I was anxious to make a decision,” he said. “Everyone gets an extra year of eligibility because of (COVID-19), and some teams don’t know if they’ll have roster spots.
“I want to take time and go where I’m meant to be instead of making a rush decision.”