LARAMIE -- "This is your game."

That's what Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl told Keonte Glinton during walkthroughs before the Cowboys faced their most-hated rival from Fort Collins last November.

What exactly does that mean?

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The sophomore was tasked with covering the best tight end in college football, Colorado State's Trey McBride. The 6-foot-3, 249-pound pass catcher already had five 100-plus yard receiving days under his belt up to that point. In 2020's version of the Border War, the Rams' top playmaker made it look easy against Wyoming, hauling in a pair of touchdown passes in a 34-24 upset.

"I was set up all week to follow him everywhere," the Cowboys' 6-foot, 190-pound defensive back said.

Good luck, kid.

McBride racked up some pretty numbers last fall in Laramie. He snagged a team-high nine balls for 90 yards. However, most of that damage came between the 20-yard lines. He never found the end zone. Most importantly, the Cowboys rushed to the visiting sideline before the final whistle and reclaimed the coveted Bronze Boot for the fifth time in six seasons.

To make matters even sweeter for UW's nickelback, on the second play of the fourth quarter and with the Rams on the move, he stepped in front of a Todd Centeio pass and recorded his first-career interception. He did it right in front of McBride, too.

"I knew he was the best tight end in college football at the time, so I knew I had a big opportunity to make plays," Glinton said of McBride, who did win the Mackey Award and earn that official title after the season. "That play is very memorable. I'm thankful for playing the whole game."

He's not the only one who is thankful.

"He did really well. He had a good game," UW defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel said. "You know, he can rise to a challenge. Look, the best guys that we played last year, I mean, people talk about some of the corners or whatever, but the reality of it was -- this is just the truth -- the best receivers we played last year were all inside guys."

Glinton, who changed his jersey number from six to two this offseason, registered just 10 tackles in 2021. He broke up three passes and finished with that pick while playing mostly in a reserve role behind Keyon Blankenbaker. Sawvel said Glinton showed his versatility early on when he was forced to play corner after Azizi Hearn was ejected from the season opener.

 

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Throughout the season, the Bakersfield, Calif., product simply built trust.

So, what makes for a solid nickel in the Cowboys' defense?

"Some people will term them the third corner because he certainly has to have movement skills that would equate to somebody that has that kind of ability to cover," Bohl said. "Then you're also looking at somebody who's really got a high ceiling as far as his football IQ. It's a complicated position."

Glinton fits that mold, according to his head coach.

"He's really bright and he's got excellent speed," Bohl continued.

Sawvel agrees.

"We'll ask a lot of KG this year," he said. "He's going to be in kind of a prime position. You know, there's a lot of good inside receivers. A lot of the teams, their best guys anymore are inside people. So, you better have a really good inside cover guy."

Glinton said it's important to set personal goals. He even shared his. He wants to snag at least five interceptions and tally at least 35 tackles.

Sound good?

He also knows the importance of leadership. Last week, fellow nickel Buck Coors was lost for the season after suffering a broken leg. That leaves that unit with young, unproven players like Wrook Brown and Malique Singleton to pick up the pieces. Like Blankenbaker did for him, Glinton said he takes plenty of responsibility when it comes to mentoring the guys behind him on the depth chart.

"I just came in and committed to this squad," he said. "I knew soon I would have a big role and big shoes to fill. Now that I'm in that spot where I can lead the youngins. I just think it's a great opportunity just to show them how it's done and how to actually move and operate around the facility and on the field."

McBride is a notorious trash talker. A smile creased Glinton's face.

"Most definitely," he said with a laugh. "He'll talk for sure."

Wyoming's sophomore chooses to take another approach to the game. One that has helped him slide into a starter's role.

"I'm more of a let's get in line, let's play," he said. "If I make a play, let's go on to the next one. For me, I'm really good at blocking out noise and ignoring people. So, when people talk, I just let them talk. I just play my game. I just like to play and keep everybody level headed."

Glinton, after all, did get the last laugh.

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