Saturday was one of those almost but not quite days for the Campbell County boys soccer team. Top-ranked and consensus favorite to win the Class 4A state soccer tournament, the Camels fell just …
LARAMIE, Wyo. — Ghaali Muhammad saw the story in the Kansas City Star.
He was a senior at Central High School in St. Joseph, Mo. The coach who had been recruiting him to play defensive back for the University of Missouri was in the news.
"It said 'Missouri loses offensive coordinator,'" the Wyoming linebacker said, recalling the headline this week.
Muhammad wasn't sure what would happen next. He then got a phone call from Dave Christensen, who told him there was a scholarship open for Muhammad to play football for Wyoming.
Christensen told Muhammad he was going to start something at UW, a program that operated in many ways like the one Muhammad had become familiar with at Missouri.
"He got me out here on a visit," Muhammad said. "He sold me on everything he was going to do."
Every senior on this year's Wyoming football team has a story about the beginning. Four years ago, things were much different than they are now. Joe Glenn was fresh out. Christensen was the buzz. The Cowboys were a team in transition.
"They've been to two bowl games," Christensen said. "They've beaten their rivals (Colorado State) four times in a row. Those are a couple things that probably haven't been done in the past decade or two, maybe three. When we came in here, it was a program that needed to be rebuilt. And we're continuing with that process now. They've certainly provided great leadership and laid the foundation for the direction of the program. I think the program is in great shape moving forward, and a lot of it has to do with this senior class."
Another member of the inaugural recruiting class includes senior receiver Chris McNeill. He, like Muhammad, signed on heading into Christensen's first season and played immediately as a freshman.
Some who joined them in that class are no longer here. Some left due to injuries, some for not fitting in with the program, some for reasons never completely understood. But McNeill is concerned with who stayed.
"It's definitely special," he tells the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/V1LlEu). "I know Coach C feels the same way. We've lost a lot of guys in that class. There are still a few soldiers still here. Being a part of that class, we were the first of many to come."
The Cowboys have gone 22-27 since Christensen and his first class arrived. McNeill sees it as a starting point, something he hopes leads to better results down the road. He uses the same word as his coach: foundation.
"Hopefully we set a good example," he said. "They can continue to build a legacy from here."
The losing record doesn't distract Muhammad, either.
His career at Wyoming has had its shares of ups and downs. After bouncing from defensive back to linebacker to running back to linebacker again, he overcame a junior-year injury to thrive this season. His 97 tackles this season are the fourth-most in the Mountain West.
He's happy with his decision to become one of Christensen's first Cowboys.
"I ended up having a blast here," he said. "I grew as a player. I built relationships that are going to last me a lifetime."
On Saturday, the Cowboys (4-7, 3-4 Mountain West) will celebrate Senior Day, when they host San Diego State (8-3, 6-1) and Christensen coaches his first UW recruits one last time.