As his high school career in Hicksville, Ohio wrapped up in 2015, Garrett Crall didn’t have plans to play college football.
There were no scholarship offers, despite earning all-state honors and leading his team to a pair of state title games. However, a handful of walk-on opportunities – at places like Akron, Ball State, Toledo, Eastern Michigan and Iowa State – emerged after his coach sent out his tape to various programs.
The University of Wyoming was another school that took notice.
Other teams had an edge in terms of proximity, with Laramie being more than 1,000 miles west of Crall’s hometown. But for Crall, now a sixth-year senior defensive end for the Cowboys, the High Plains were a natural fit.
“Wyoming came here after signing day, and I visited in the middle of March and fell in love with it instantly,” Crall said. “My dad knew right away when he was out here. He texted my mom because he knew they were in trouble, and that I was going to come out here.
“I love the scenery out here, and the small-town feel, but still playing big-time college football. Then coach Bohl was a guy that I really wanted to play for, and it wasn’t even close compared to the other programs. I know looking back I couldn’t have made a better decision. It was everything I’d hoped and dreamed for, and it’s been a great ride.”
With only two games left in the regular season, it’s begun to set in for Crall that his time at UW is coming to an end.
This tenure has included a Mountain Division title run as a redshirt, a 5-1 record over Border War rival Colorado State and an improbable journey from unproven walk-on to bonafide team leader and captain. As such, Crall admits it’s impossible to pinpoint a favorite memory with the Pokes.
For now, he’s simply trying to soak in all the ones he has left.
“There are so many,” Crall said. “Going all the way back, I can talk about being here to win the Bronze Boot five times. Then being able to come here, be a walk-on and get put on scholarship, and all the relationships I’ve built with a bunch of guys. I have lifelong friends here, and I’ve been in a couple of my buddies’ weddings and all that kind of stuff.
“The relationships have been great, and then being elected a team captain is something I’ll always cherish. That’s such an honor, and seeing it come from being a walk-on is something truly special that I never even dreamed of. There’s been a lot, and I’m just trying to soak up the last couple weeks and all that’s left of it. I’m just taking advantage of all these little moments.”
Senior linebacker Chad Muma says Crall’s impact on the program has been immeasurable, with his work ethic setting an example for veterans and underclassmen alike.
“Garrett is a no bulls- – type of guy,” Muma said. “He’ll come in and work every single day, no matter how he’s feeling. If he’s beat up a little bit, he’s still going to bring the same effort and attitude toward everything. Garrett is just one of those leaders on our team that people can look toward and respect 100%.”
While Crall has emerged as arguably the most vocal leader on the Cowboys as his UW career comes to a close, Muma still remembers when he was an overlooked walk-on – a fact that’s hard to fathom for some of the younger players on Wyoming’s roster.
“A lot of guys don’t realize that he came in as a walk-on,” Muma said. “There have been a couple times where guys were like, ‘What? Garrett’s a walk-on?’ and it’s because of the position he’s put himself in today. He’s really deserved to be in the position he’s in right now because of all the work he’s put in through the years.”
Crall’s vocality and outspoken confidence have been staples of the UW football program in recent years, but that wasn’t the case when he first arrived in Laramie.
Having the chance to sit back and learn from team leaders like Josh Allen, Lucas Wacha and Jacob Hollister changed that.
“It’s really just one of those things that you have to take everything day by day,” Crall said. “When you’re young, you just have to be willing to listen. I think a lot of people want to come in and prove themselves right away, and there’s definitely a time for that. But being able to just listen to some of the older guys ... I was pretty quiet when I first got here, and I was able to take a lot from them and prove myself.
“Once you start doing that, you start to build a reputation for yourself. And once you do that, it’s all about living up to that standard. When I got put on scholarship, it was one of those things where I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got this now, but now I’m going to work even harder because I want to prove myself every day.’”
Crall’s final run with the Cowboys hasn’t gone as he intended, with UW needing to win at least one of its last two games to reach a bowl game after entering the year with Mountain West title aspirations.
Even amid a trying season, however, Crall has helped keep the Pokes’ spirits high while preventing the locker room from splintering.
“He’s been a joy to coach, and he’s done a superb job as a captain,” UW coach Craig Bohl said. “He’s worked hard, and he’s reached across all kinds of different subgroups within our football team.
“Sometimes you can have offensive and defensive guys congregate to their own area, or sometimes you can have position groups congregate to their own area. He’s constantly encouraging younger players, both on offense and defense.”
Added junior safety Rome Weber: “G-Crall means a lot. He brings a great deal of leadership to the team. Even when I first got here, I still looked at him as a leader. I know he was a little bit younger, but I always looked up to him. He keeps our head straight. He’s been through a lot, and he helps us to get through adversity.”
Crall admits that he couldn’t have envisioned himself leaving a lasting impact at UW when he first stepped foot on campus nearly six years ago as a high school senior. His never-give-up mentality, however, has allowed him to exceed his own expectations.
He kept this mindset while proving himself as a walk-on, and displayed it again in bouncing back from an injury-plagued 2020 season. Crall hopes to showcase this resilience one last time and lead his team to a bowl game in the process.
“Looking back, it’s been a long ride, and I certainly never pictured myself being in this position,” Crall said. “But I also knew when I came here that I was never going to quit. When you never quit, good things happen, and that’s one thing I’ve kept with myself this whole time.”