Sometimes the best quotes never make it into a story. They either don’t fit into a narrative, or they detour the train of thought. Or, as is often the case with me, the story’s already three pages too long.
For this week’s Beacon, I profiled Kalispell’s Brock Osweiler on the eve of the NFL Draft. Much has been written about Brock over the years and for good reason. To reflect on his journey to the world of professional football I spoke with three of his former coaches who all praised Brock and gave some great perspective about his story. Unfortunately most of what they had to say didn’t make it into the newspaper for reasons listed above. But I just couldn’t hog all the good stuff for myself.
The first round of the NFL Draft begins tonight in New York City and continues through Saturday. When exactly a team will snatch up Brock will soon be seen. Obviously local folks would love to see him drafted high, but maybe even more so, they’d probably like a regional team to add Brock to the roster, making it feasible to watch him play in the future. As a Denver Broncos fan you don’t have to guess which team I’m lobbying for.
Russell McCarvel, former assistant coach on the national championship Carroll College football team, became Flathead’s head football coach in 2007, Brock’s junior year:
“When I first showed up I already knew who he was. I think the thing that impressed me so much right away was his maturity. And obviously physically you don’t see guys like that.”
“I remember after his sophomore year, he wanted to send out tapes to colleges. I started getting calls right away. There were tons of big time schools all over the nation that were showing interest. I remember one night Jim Harbaugh called me at my home … Most of the time, people were saying ‘is he really a sophomore?'”
McCarvel visited Brock a few days before the Pro Day on March 30. Brock had wrapped up filming with Jon Gruden for the ESPN Series Gruden’s QB Camp, which first aired April 9.
“I watched two days of everything that he was going to do (at his Pro Day in front of NFL coaches and scouts). The two days I saw, he looked pretty darn smooth.”
“He’d been throwing with (San Diego Chargers QB) Philip Rivers also. He had (Brock) widen his stance and his throwing to try and quicken it up.”
McCarvel on what Brock’s success means back home in Kalispell:
“It certainly should give young kids the ability to believe their dreams can come true.”
On Flathead High potentially having three professional football players – Brock, Minnesota Vikings’ Lex Hilliard and the CFL’s Mike Reilly:
“That’s pretty amazing. Kids can certainly look and say ‘hey the Flathead Braves have three guys from their program who are right now making a living playing pro football.”
Grady Bennett was a standout quarterback at Flathead before becoming an All American at the University of Montana in the early 1990s. He had a short stint in the CFL and returned home, where he coached the Braves football team, including Brock his freshman and sophomore year. He took over the new Glacier High football program in 2007-08.
Bennett remembers a conversation he had with Brock when playing college basketball at Gonzaga was still the plan:
“I said to him, ‘when you just look at what’s in the NBA and the number of guys your size, do you see yourself one day playing in the NBA? He was pretty honest. He could see it would be a stretch. Then I said, ‘honestly do you see yourself playing on Sundays?’ He said, ‘you know what yeah.’ I said ‘Brock, I absolutely agree. That is legitimately within your reach.'”
“I’ll never forget the speech he gave before our Butte playoff game when he was a sophomore. Very rarely do you see a sophomore kid stand up and take over a room. And then we went out and won on the road. Everybody just looked at each other and said ‘wow.’ He just had some special qualities that made you realize that this kid is not only physically gifted, but he has the whole package that will take him far.”
“What always impressed me about Brock was he could have scored 60 every game, but he always had a way with his teammates. He always wanted them involved and to feel good about themselves. He’s a fiery guy and he’s a leader. People just tend to follow him.”
On Brock entering the NFL:
“I would tell him just stay humble and stay true to your roots. That’s an advantage of being a Montana kid. I think Montana people are just salt of the earth and are good people; you just understand where you came from and you have that humility built in. In the NFL, you can be a hero one day and the next day 80,000 people are booing. You can never get too high or never get to low. You have to just stay humble and consider it a blessing.”
Dennis Erickson considers his time in Montana to be life changing. It’s where the roots of his long career lie. He was born near Seattle and earned a chance to play quarterback at Montana State in the late 1960s. He got his coaching start at Billings Central High School and then MSU as a graduate assistant. He went on from there to win national championships at Miami and coach in the NFL.
He’s had a remarkable career in football, and honestly when I first reached out to him for an interview I considered it a long shot. But low and behold, about an hour after taking a shot in the dark, my phone rang and there was Dennis Erickson, more than happy to talk to someone in Montana about Brock Osweiler.
Erickson still talks about our state like it’s a home-away-from-home. His wife is from Big Sky Country. He said most of his best longtime friends live here and he still tries to return often.
Out of high school he didn’t get a scholarship offer from Montana State and had to earn his spot on the roster. He did, and as it turned out, “That’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me, without a question.”
“There’s no state like it. It’s like no place that I’ve ever been.”
As the head coach at Arizona State, Erickson heard about a Montana kid who towered over everyone on the football field, and it was a no-brainer to visit. When he first saw Brock, he recognized the toughness and leadership he had seen before from Montanans.
“Brock’s a Montana guy through and through.”
“He was a very smart competitor. He wanted to be the best and he had his goals.”
“I watched his Pro Day, he’s really improved from last fall. He’s improved a lot in his throwing mechanics since he was (at Arizona State). He’s learned a lot too. That’s why he’ll be good at the next level.”