LARAMIE — Caleb Cantrell was in the library when he saw Kolton Donovan was down on the Kinnick Stadium field with an injury.
“I was just like, ‘Phew,’” Cantrell said. “‘I haven’t even started practice, and I’m probably starting next week.’”
Donovan came to Wyoming as a graduate transfer from Southern Utah this year to take over the long snapper job, left vacant by graduated four-year senior Brendan Turelli. Donovan tore his ACL in his first game as a Cowboy, however, leaving the position open yet again.
Fullback Drew Van Maanen finished out the season opener as Wyoming’s snapper, but in the following week, Cantrell, a freshman walk-on, was brought in.
Monday was his first practice with Wyoming. Saturday, he made his debut in a 24-3 win against Gardner-Webb.
“I thought our snapper, for the most part, did OK,” head coach Craig Bohl said. “We had one errant snap that … barely made it, but we’ll continue to work on the kicking game.”
The snap Bohl referred to was a low snap on a punt, though true freshman punter Tim Zaleski downed GWU at its own 4-yard line nonetheless.
“He said he had a cramp in his hip when he was snapping,” Bohl said. “So I said, ‘Go see the trainer.’”
Actually, it was both hips, Cantrell said. But it was a low snap on an extra point that he was more concerned with.
“It was the second (PAT),” Cantrell said. “I don’t know why I got nervous. The first one I was fine. The second one, I ... got a little jittery. But that was about it.”
It didn’t result in a miss, though, as sophomore kicker Cooper Rothe converted on all three extra points and both field-goal attempts.
“I didn’t expect to walk on and then a week and a half later be playing,” Cantrell said. “But the last day and a half, I haven’t really been too nervous at all, except for that one low PAT snap I was a little nervous. That’s about it. I was pretty confident going into the game.”
Bohl hadn’t been too excited about the idea of his starting fullback starting at long snapper, as well. Still, Monday, he said Van Maanen was the most likely choice to start Saturday. By Wednesday’s practice, he was leaning toward Cantrell, a 5-foot-11, 220-pounder from Hurst, Texas.
“I had a kind of rough practice the first day, just because I was nervous,” Cantrell said. “As the week went on, I got a lot more consistent and more settled in.”
He didn’t know until noon Friday that he would be starting against GWU, but Van Maanen had given him that indication, he said.
Though Donovan is out for the year with his torn ACL, he was still helping Cantrell on Saturday, at one point walking with crutches onto the field during a break to talk to him.
“He was just (saying), ‘Pick your head up,’ and stuff like that, because I had that one bad snap and that other low one,” Cantrell said. “Just, ‘Pick your head up.’ He’s a real good guy. He kind of keeps my confidence boosted when I get down a little bit.
“... It kind of sucks, because he’s a real good guy, and he’s kind of had a different recruiting process in college. And then he goes down the first game of the season. It kind of got to me a little bit, and I just kind of swallowed it and went on with it.”