CASPER, Wyo. - Ryan Anaya missed his opportunity this season to play on Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.
Naturally, the Natrona County senior linebacker is ready for his next chance. Anaya signed his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday to play football at the University of Wyoming, becoming the Cowboys' first in-state scholarship recruit since Green River's Drew Martinez in 2010.
"We want the best player in the state of Wyoming," Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said. "And we got that in Ryan."
For a player that missed the final three and 1/2 games of his high school career, Anaya is ready for his shot at Division I football.
"There's a lot to prove," Anaya tells the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/VGM5dH). "Always something to prove."
The 6-foot-3, 248-pound linebacker was a key piece of the Mustangs' top-ranked and dominating defense. Anaya posted 31 tackles on the season, 7.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. Anaya injured his right shoulder in the regular-season finale against Gillette; Natrona finished the year 12-0 and defeated that same Gillette team 35-7 in the Wyoming State High School Class 4A Championship game.
Anaya was a first-team all-conference selection at linebacker.
UW defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Matt Rahl praised Anaya's athleticism at UW's press conference, mentioning Anaya's indoor state track long jump title in 2012. And coming from a team and program that went 22-1 combined the previous two years, including a state title, Anaya "is a winner," Rahl finished.
Christensen said Anaya was a top target. Wyoming offered Anaya this past summer after he attended a team camp in Laramie, and Christensen said Anaya had been on the team's radar prior to the camp.
"He has a lot of potential," Christensen said. "He is a very athletic young man, a sharp young man. Being from this state, it is huge."
Anaya didn't play the rest of the season after injuring his shoulder, but said on Wednesday that Wyoming's team physician performed his surgery and has subsequently oversaw his rehab. He said one of the main reasons he gave the early verbal was the vibe around the UW program.
And no teams came in during the 11th hour, attempting to sway his commitment.
"It was Wyoming the whole way," Anaya said.
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com