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Austin Murphy
September 03, 1990
College football's talent pool is remarkably deep, and the pro scouts know where to mine it
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September 03, 1990

Treasure Hunt

College football's talent pool is remarkably deep, and the pro scouts know where to mine it

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"He has a knack for giving it that little burst at the right time," says Burt. "Once he's beyond the first wave, it's a footrace, an angles game." In other words, a kind of geometry at which Fann, for a change, excels.


The Scourge of Western Athletic Conference quarterbacks shows up at a restaurant for breakfast in shorts, sandals and a loose-fitting, short-sleeved T-shirt with jagged, horizontal stripes of indigo and hot pink. "My fiancée picked it out for me," says University of Wyoming defensive end Mitch Donahue. This prompts a visitor to think, Mitch, you're a native of Billings, Mont., attending college of your own volition in Laramie. Wyo. Your hobbies are hunting and fishing. I didn't think you picked the shirt out for yourself.

While in most respects Donahue is as rough-hewn as the surrounding Rocky Mountain landscape, it soon becomes apparent that he has a more sensitive side. He proposed to his fiancée, Melissa Wolff, in April by arranging to have MELISSA...WILL YOU BE MRS. DONAHUE? appear on the electronic scoreboard during Wyoming's spring football game. Later, Wolff said yes. "I guess I'm kind of a romantic," says Donahue.

"He's a real nice kid, but you can't even talk to him on game day," says Wyoming defensive coordinator Del Wight. "He's wired pretty tight." Indeed, Donahue, who has gotten 27 sacks in three seasons, becomes so excited after a Cowboy victory that he has been known to do backflips on the field. Against Air Force in 1988 he landed a flurry of left hooks to the ribs of Falcon halfback Anthony Roberson well after the whistle.

Wyoming coach Paul Roach says that Donahue's success is a matter of ABC: "A) Speed. He goes 6'3", about 260 and runs a 4.7. B) He doesn't stay blocked for very long. C) He's full throttle, every play, every game. He's an eggbeater-type."

Donahue will certainly wind up in the NFL, although he could be moved to middle linebacker. "We have him rated very highly. I don't know that I'd call him a sleeper," says New York Giants director of player personnel Tom Boisture. Of course, matriculation at Wyoming confers automatic sleeper status.

How does a Donahue-type talent find himself in Laramie? "We stole him," says assistant coach Tom Everson. "He's still the best high school player I've ever seen. Teams couldn't run at him, and they couldn't run away from him."

By the time Donahue made his official visit to Wyoming in 1985, the students had left for Christmas break. So his host took him bowling "and to the Dairy Queen—stuff like that," Donahue recalls. "But I'd been praying a lot about the decision, and when I got here, I knew this was the place."

Was it fitting then for Donahue, a devout Christian, to rain left hooks on his opponent after play had stopped? "You mean the game against Air Force two years ago?" he says. "Let me give you the whole story." It seems that he was throwing with his left because the Falcon halfback had Donahue's right hand in his mouth—and wouldn't let go. "He about bit through my finger," says Donahue, holding the scarred digit up for inspection.

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