LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — There are some who recall former University of Wyoming quarterback Josh Wallwork’s personality as being “somewhat of a flake or a space cadet.”
But Wallwork prefers to think of himself as a carefree guy who simply traveled his own path.
“I’ve never been a flake in my life,” Wallwork insisted as he returned home from work and just prior to heading to the beach in his new Ewa Beach, Hawaii, digs.
“I always took pride in being there for my friends and my family. My teammates can vouch for that,” he added.
Perhaps he was just eccentric.
“He was a free spirit . that’s about the best way I could put it,” said former Wyoming coach Joe Tiller, who was the Cowboys’ head coach during Wallwork’s two seasons (1995-96) at UW.
Wallwork was one of those players who drove the Wyoming coaching staff to the edge by doing such things as not showing up for a workout in the weight room to changing plays during games.
“Josh would drive the coaches crazy,” Tiller said. “But when you backed him into a corner and snapped him to attention, he would pay attention . but given a choice, he would rather not.”
“He did have a unique personality,” said former UW wide receiver Marcus Harris, who was the Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation’s top receiver in 1996 with 109 catches for 1,650 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Harris recalled one particular instance that has always stayed with him.
“I remember one game where we had the perfect play called for the defense that was set up,” Harris said. “Well, Josh audibled and threw a touchdown. So, coach (offensive coordinator Larry) Korpitz calls down (from the press box) and was giving Josh the business, ‘Why did you change the play? . What are you doing?’ And Josh said, ‘Hey coach, touchdown,’ and hung up the phone.”
In spite of Wallwork’s eccentricities, Tiller begrudgingly admitted he actually liked Wallwork.
“Overall, Josh was not a bad kid. He had some redeeming qualities,” Tiller tells the Laramie Boomerang (http://bit.ly/12pZ2uo). “Deep down, I liked him because he was so different. I probably chastised him more publicly than I did privately.”
One of those redeeming qualities was the respect and rapport he had from his Cowboys teammates.
“The quarterback you want on your team is Josh Wallwork,” Harris said. “He had heart, he had courage and he had leadership abilities. Josh would make throws that other people were scared to make. He had faith in his ability and had the respect of his team, that’s for dang sure.”
Wallwork came to Wyoming from Galivan College in Gilroy, Calif., the year after John Gustin graduated in 1994.
“We wanted a ‘JC’ guy and we kind of liked Josh, but he wasn’t our first choice,” Tiller recalled.
Wallwork lacked the foot speed UW was looking for in a quarterback, but the one thing he could do was throw the football.
In his 22 games as a Cowboy, Wallwork completed 449-of-729 passes for 6,453 yards and 54 touchdowns in leading UW to back-to-back seasons of 6-5 and 10-2. Wyoming had an 11-game winning streak, the longest in the nation at the time, between the end of the 1995 season and the beginning of the 1996 campaign.
Wallwork finished his Cowboys career with a 61.6 percent completion mark. Only one other UW quarterback has completed more than 60 percent of his passes for a career, and that’s current ‘Poke Brett Smith, who is at 61.5 percent heading into his junior year this fall.
One of Wallwork’s most memorable moments at Wyoming came in the last game of the regular season of his senior year against Border War rival Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colo.
The Cowboys trailed 25-19 with 8:05 remaining in the game and had the ball on their own 4-yard line. What followed was UW’s own version of “The Drive.”
“We got into the huddle and we were on our own 4-yard line and had to have a touchdown,” Wallwork said. “I remember looking at everybody and everybody was looking at me and I go, ‘I guess we are going to have to drive all the way down the field and score, huh?’
“And then I started laughing and everybody kind of got serious. So I told them to loosen up because we are going to do this right now.”
What followed was a 96-yard, 14-play drive that consumed 6:17 and gave Wyoming a 25-24 lead with 1:48 remaining.
Wallwork completed 5-of-7 passes in the drive, none bigger than a 13-yarder to wide receiver Wendell Montgomery on a 3rd-and-14 from the CSU 31-yard line.
“That drive kind of solidified who we were and what we were all about,” Wallwork said.
While football was his passion and life was wild and fast, things weren’t always good for Wallwork. His carefree personality also took him down a bad road with drug addiction.
It began with “recreational” drug use in high school before he eventually went off the “deep end” with methamphetamine after he wasn’t taken in the 1996 NFL draft.
“I went into a deep depression and started using methamphetamine. It went spiraling downhill fast.”
After leaving Wyoming, Wallwork continued to play football in Italy and in arena leagues in the United States, but eventually gave it up to return to California, where he took a construction job and lapsed into addiction again.
That led to an eight-month prison sentence for meth possession in 2001. The turning point, Wallwork said, was looking at his crying, 1-year-old son, Josh Jr., through the jail’s glass petition. That had a sobering effect.
“To be honest with you, being arrested was probably the best thing that ever happened to me,” Wallwork said. “If I could go back, I probably wouldn’t change a thing because it made me the person I am today.”
And that’s a guy who has been 12 years clean and sober, and one locked into his job and who has a family: his wife and three children.
While Wallwork is now in his happy place, he said he really enjoyed his time at Wyoming and still keeps in touch with many of his former Cowboy teammates.
“It’s like the signs read when you drive into the state ... ‘It’s like no place on earth,’” Wallwork said. “Wyoming was good to me, I had a great time. And football ... we had some great seasons, and the guys I met are lifelong friends. We still talk to this day. I talk to Marcus (Harris) on a regular basis and I talk to a bunch of guys on Facebook. ... We are all buddies.
“I wouldn’t change anything for the world. Wyoming was good, but I never want to be cold like that again, that’s for sure.”