Behind the lines… A giant of my youth

    Guest Posts on County 10 are provided by contributors and the opinions, thoughts, and comments within are their own and may not necessarily reflect those of County 10.

    I’m writing far too many of these. It was one thing to say goodbye to the older men of my youth, but it’s much harder when it’s your generation passing over to the next camp.

    A carefree giant passed away late last month in former University of Wyoming defensive tackle Leon Broussard.


    “Big Leon” as we called him in Crane Hall was physically a big man for his era, listed at 6-2 and 247 pounds, he was a stalwart on the Wyoming Fiesta Bowl team in 1976.

    I say “listed” when it came to Leon’s weight, because he was a joker, and often told us how he would shift his balance and push down with his off hand to take off 20 or 30 pounds on the scale when the trainer wasn’t looking.

    The 1976 Cowboy team was one of the original “Cardiac Kids” teams. They were 8-4 on the year with wins over BYU, Arizona State, Utah, and Arizona but with late-season losses to the dreaded Rams in Ft. Collins and their only serious whipping (before the Fiasco Bowl as we later called it) at Colorado Springs against Air Force.

    It was the mismatch against mighty Oklahoma that most Cowboy fans remember.


    We couldn’t get KTWO TV from Casper on the farm, so I drove into town to my grandmother’s place on Gasser Road to watch my friends play the 9-2 Oklahoma Sooners on the nationally televised Fiesta Bowl.

    Oklahoma boasted four wins over top 20 teams and rose to #3 in the AP Poll before a 6-6 tie with Texas.

    They lost two mid-season games to Oklahoma State and Colorado which eliminated their hopes for a shot at the national title. Instead, they took out their frustration on Wyoming.


    When I got back to campus in January, I spotted Leon in the Crane Hall Lobby. He lived directly above me on the second floor of Crane, where his dancing and antics made us wonder about the integrity of the building.

    I asked him what happened in Tempe.

    Leon looked left and right and said, “Man, if you repeat this, I’ll tell people you’re lying, I was scared.”


    It’s hard to believe a guy that big could be frightened and I said, “There’s no way. What was so scary about the Sooners.”

    “Their D-line was faster than Robby,” Leon replied.

    Robby was running back, Robby Wright, a 4.6 40-yard dash back for Wyoming. He was considered the fastest guy on the team.

    It made the 41-7 loss seem much more plausible.

    But there was so much more to Leon Broussard than football.

    One afternoon we were all screwing around in the hall and a guy brought out his Honda Trail 90 motorcycle. These are tiny machines, designed as a beginning cycle for youngsters. Leon had to try it out.

    We went out into the parking lot east of Crane Hall that bordered the UW practice field and laughed hysterically as the big man from Los Angeles puttered around the asphalt. He was too big to get it up to speed and looked like she was sliding along as his legs nearly covered the entire bike.

    Leon came in handy a few times at parties when a soused, mean drunk wanted to fight. Just his presence calmed the situation.

    In those days, registration was a challenge. Every class on campus had a secretary from the various departments manning tables in Half Acre Gym with a set number of computer punch cards for each class.

    It wasn’t a problem with introductory classes of 200 to 300 held in the main lecture halls of the Classroom Building, but cards ran out quickly for limited enrollment in upper-level classes.

    As a history major, I was taking my first 600-level classes as a sophomore, and in the fall, many of them were full before I got a chance to register.

    They took seniors to freshmen in that order for regular students but gave the athletes early admission to guarantee all their classes were scheduled before afternoon practice.

    That’s where Leon came in. He ran a little side hustle for us by pulling cards early. It was expressly forbidden, but as a kid from the Inland Empire, rules were debatable.

    For a six-pack of Coors, Leon would pull cards for his friend’s classes.

    I wrote down a list of the ones I was looking for, gave it to Leon and later that day he brought me the cards and picked up his “Rocky Mountain Spring Water.”

    I hid the cards when it was my official time to register, took a few survey class cards which were easily available, then hung around the appropriate amount of time before pulling out the cards Leon had pilfered for me. It was a flawless system.

    It worked great until Leon graduated and took a job with the Albany County Sheriff’s Department.

    I spotted him for a few more years, and we talked at Cowboy games but lost track as our lives took different directions.

    Our mutual friend Sally Ann Shurmur, the daughter of Wyoming head coach Fritz Shurmur who had recruited Leon had a post noting Leon’s passing.

    Leon was almost 70 years old. He beat stage four cancer, a heart attack, new knees, and the suicide of his 15-year-old son Leon Broussard IV, but he couldn’t win forever.

    Leon had a stroke while driving near his California home and died in the ensuing wreck.

    That’s not how we remember our friends. We remember the stories from high school when he and his buddies coordinated flushing toilets at the same time in the boys’ restrooms around campus to blow out a weak water line and get the day off from school on a warm spring day.

    We remember the banter, the dance moves, and for a defensive tackle, Leon was “Disco King.”

    Mostly we remember the slightly high-pitched laughter, strange for a big man, but engaging at the same time.

    I know I’ve used this before, but it keeps rolling around my mind each time I hear of another friend passing on.

    It’s from Balboa, perhaps the best movie (though it is farfetched) for an aging athlete to enjoy.

    As Rocky is denied a license to fight by the Boxing Commission he utters this gem, “You know the older I get, the more things I got to leave behind, that’s life. The only thing I am asking you guys to leave on the table is what is right.”

    Leon did it right, he was a bigger-than-life character in my formative years, and in my mind, we’re the same two guys traipsing around Crane Hall in our early 20s, without a care in the world.


    Related Posts

    Have a news tip or an awesome photo to share?