University of Wyoming football was in sophomore linebacker Chad Muma’s blood.
His father, Ty Muma, lettered as a strong safety for the Cowboys in 1990 and ’91. His maternal grandfather, Rick Desmarais, was a fullback from 1961-63, and led UW in rushing yards and touchdowns in 1962.
Muma attended countless Cowboys games when he was in elementary school. He often played football in the open area past the south end zone, but he also spent time in the stands.
“As a little kid, I would pester my parents to tell me what the student section was chanting,” he said with a laugh.
Despite those deep ties, Muma wasn’t
destined to don brown and gold. His father was hands off during the recruiting process because he truly wanted it to be his son’s decision.
“He wanted me to find the right place for me, and he wasn’t really pushing Wyoming,” the sophomore said. “Even after I got an offer from (Colorado State), he still told me I needed to find the right fit.
“I thought Wyoming was the best fit for me. Being able to play on the same field my dad played on is really special.”
Muma is already showing the potential to be UW’s next standout linebacker.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder has 28 tackles, which ranks third on the Cowboys’ roster. Eighteen of those tackles have been solo stops. He also has 2½ tackles for loss and one quarterback sack entering tonight’s 8:30 kickoff at San Diego State.
What makes Muma’s production even more impressive is that he has done it while playing just half the snaps.
Muma is listed as senior Logan Wilson’s backup at middle linebacker, and spends the first five plays on the sidelines before entering the game at weakside linebacker in place of senior Cassh Maluia. Maluia gets a break for three plays. Muma moves to middle linebacker when Maluia returns, giving Wilson a two-play break.
Succeeding at both middle and weakside linebacker is no easy task, sixth-year UW coach Craig Bohl said. Defensive coordinator Jake Dickert echoed Bohl. Muma, however, downplays the difficulty.
“They’re pretty similar because the mike (middle) is playing off the will (weakside), and the will plays off the mike,” the Lone Tree, Colorado, product said. “There are some key details you have to pay attention to to know those spots and really play them well.
“They’re different, but they’re also pretty similar.”
Muma isn’t giving himself nearly enough credit, Dickert said.
“It might be easy for him because he is like a human computer,” Dickert said. “He is an engineering kid, and he is very smart. But it is way more complicated than he is letting on.
“There is crossover stuff with technique and alignment, but there are enough differences that it takes a special guy to be doing what he is doing. You have to be a special player to be able to play both of those positions well.”
Muma played safety during his first three seasons at Legend High. He tallied 145 tackles and four interceptions during his freshman and sophomore seasons with the Titans.
It became clear during the recruiting process that colleges were looking for Muma to play linebacker. Legend coach Monte Thelen embraced the idea of Muma moving to linebacker for his senior season. Muma notched 77 more tackles and another interception, and was named to the Denver Post’s All-Colorado team, which honors the best players in the Centennial State, regardless of classification.
“I played linebacker in middle school, so it was a pretty easy change,” Muma said.
It’s common for UW’s linebackers to have played other positions during their prep careers, Dickert said.
“Most of the guys we recruit as linebackers are typically running backs, safeties or quarterbacks,” he said. “That’s where we look first. Seeing (Muma’s) size and frame and family lineage, you could tell he was going to grow into a linebacker.
“When he was playing safety, we could see he was really aggressive and had the ability to play in space. We knew that was going to translate well to what we do in our system.”
While Ty Muma was hands off during his son’s recruiting process, he was hands on early in Chad’s football career. That’s where Chad learned to play aggressively.
“The best advice he ever gave me was to play fast and physical and hit people,” Chad said. “I love flying around and making plays.”
Unsurprisingly, UW’s 1991 football media guide lists the 6-0, 195-pound Ty as a big-hitter. He took pride in his playing style.
“He would always tell me how hard of a hitter he was, and I would be like, ‘Yeah, OK,’” Chad said. “Then I would come up to games, and his old teammates would tell me the same thing. That convinced me he was being honest.
“I also got to watch some of his game film, and it was pretty cool to see him flying around out there.”
Muma has new mentors in Wilson and Maluia. Wilson is a four-year starter who ranks seventh on the Cowboys’ career tackles list (361). Maluia is a three-year starter with 153 tackles to his name.
Neither has been shy about teaching Muma the tricks of the trade.
“I want to help him become the best player he can possibly be,” Wilson said. “I am always talking to him about the big things he is going to do when I’m gone and he is a senior. He is a good kid, and I want to help him as much as I can before my time is up.”
Muma played all 12 games on special teams during his true freshman season, recording two tackles. He also saw a couple snaps at middle linebacker during the Cowboys’ loss at Missouri. Playing special teams helped Muma adjust to the speed of college football.
Wilson and Maluia’s influence also has helped him go from a special-teamer to UW’s third-leading tackler.
“I can approach them with questions, and they help me with technique and figuring out what to do against certain formations,” he said. “I can ask them anything. I’m learning from both of them.
“I also get to see how they practice and how they play every day. I’m trying to do the things they’re doing.”
Muma was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a seventh-grader. He wears an insulin pump and a Dexcom continuous glucose monitoring system. He removes his insulin pump for practice and games, and tests his blood sugar throughout. He reconnects his insulin pump at halftime.
Muma occasionally gets mid-game insulin injections. He’ll drink Gatorade to keep his sugars up if his Dexcom says his blood sugar is within the acceptable range.
While some players might view being diabetic and playing Division I football as a burden, Muma talks about it with the same nonchalance as he does thriving at two linebacker spots.
“I have been playing and living with it for so long that it’s just normal to me,” he said.