BOZEMAN — Montana State’s run to the FCS title game has captivated fans across the state, but perhaps no group has been more tuned in than MSU football alumni.
It’s been 38 years since the Bobcats last played for a national championship, and plenty of players have left their mark on the program, laying the tracks and building the foundation for national contention.
MTN Sports spoke with several all-time MSU greats over the past week to get their thoughts on this year’s Bobcat team. Leading up to kickoff, we’ll share their comments on the state of Bobcat football and what it’s been like to watch the 2021 Cats achieve this level of success.
The first topic is on the minds of football fans all over Montana: freshman quarterback “Touchdown” Tommy Mellott. The true freshman from Butte earned his first start of the season in the first round of the playoffs, and has since led the Cats to three wins over UT-Martin, Sam Houston State and South Dakota State.
In the postseason alone, Mellott has accounted for 864 yards of total offense and 11 touchdowns.
Here’s what some former MSU legends had to say about Mellott’s play.
Credentials: Played LB at MSU from 2011-2014. Played for the Calgary Stampeders from 2016-2019, named the CFL’s most outstanding defensive player in 2017. Signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019. Led the team with 120 tackles in 2020, and currently has 130 tackles in 2021.
Singleton on Mellott: “When I was watching the first game against UT-Martin it was crazy that he was a freshman doing this, and you just see him run the ball well. And when I played we had lost to Sam Houston State twice in the playoffs and I knew they can't go down there and just run quarterback power and win that game. And this dude just came out and just slung it all over the field. So it was really cool to see. Not just how well he's playing, but how well the team got behind his back and how quickly it just became his team. It’s really cool to see, it's just exciting, and it's brought energy. I'm sure Butte’s burned down by now with excitement, but besides that it's been it's been really fun to watch.”
Credentials: Played QB at MSU from 2002-2005. Re-wrote the record books with school records for career passing yards (10,746) and total offense in a career. He also led Montana State to three wins over Montana, including a 10-7 win in 2002 which snapped a 16 game losing streak to the Griz. Went on to play nine seasons for the BC Lions of the CFL, where he was named the Most Outstanding Player in 2011 and Grey Cup MVP that same season.
Lulay on Mellott: “This is unheard of for a freshman quarterback to get thrown into the fire in the playoffs. His first start is a home playoff game, right? Like that doesn't happen. Normally if you're just looking from the outside, you think ‘wow, the freshman kid, hopefully he can give them a chance’, but to see him play at a high level and to see the team kind of rally around him has been really cool obviously. And TouchdownTommy has the story of the state, I’m sure. And he's earned that, but it's just the way the team has kind of risen up around him. It's been so cool. That decision takes a lot of courage. So you gotta tip your hat to coach Vigen and the coaching staff to be able to say, we think he gives us the best chance to win right now. And he's proved him right to this point. So it's been pretty darn cool.”
Credentials: Played WR at MSU from 2010-2013. Holds the career record for receiving yards with 2,816 and receptions with 193. His eight 100 yard receiving games is also tied for first all time. Great Falls CMR product was a four time Academic All-Big Sky selection.
Bleskin on Mellott: “I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Montana athletes. I feel like in so many ways, they're shortchanged and to see the spirit of that guy, but also Troy Anderson and all the guys, it's very easy to get behind that. It's pretty awesome for Tommy to go into an environment where he doesn’t have to be an All-American here because his defense can stop some the best. You watch what they did against Sam Houston. You watch what they against South Dakota State that UT Martin when he came in and they were really good.”
Credentials: Played OT at MSU from 2006-2010. All-Big Sky selection. Drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 7th round of the 2011 NFL draft. Played nine seasons with six teams in the NFL, including 48 starts in 73 career games. Helped the 49ers reach Super Bowl LIV in 2019.
Person on Mellott: “Tommy's just been a revelation here these past four weeks. It gets you juiced up every Saturday to be able to watch that team. They play fast, they play hard. I mean, they're just a fun, fun group to watch. And just personally as a fan, I couldn't be more on cloud nine than I am right now. The program is in great shape and there were some dark days. It’s phenomenal.”
Credentials: Played QB at MSU from 2010-13. He was a two-time Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year, and a first team All-American in 2012. McGhee holds the all-time career records for passing yards with 11,203 and passing touchdowns with 79. His .640 completion percentage is also tops all time at MSU. After starting his coaching career at Montana State from 2017-19, McGhee is currently in his second season as an offensive assistant for the Houston Texans.
McGhee on Mellott: “Touchdown Tommy has coming up big time after time after time again. The kid is extremely tough, he's competitive and he he's smart. I mean, coming out of high school, he was a 4.0 GPA kid. And a lot of people don't know, I was talking to Arie Gray, his high school coach earlier today and he made a 32 on his ACT. So that probably has a lot to do with the decisions that the kid makes. He makes sound decisions and he makes plays with his legs. And he takes care of the ball which allows them to continuously be in positions to win football games.”
Stay tuned throughout the week for more thoughts from MSU legends on the 2021 Bobcats ahead of the FCS National Title game against North Dakota State on Saturday, January 8th in Frisco, Texas.