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Diggers piling up wins without the entitlement

Diggers piling up wins without the entitlement
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There was only one way to describe Dion Williams’ performance as the Montana Tech receiver made unbelievable catch after unbelievable catch against Montana Western on Oct. 8, and KBOW color man Ron Hasquet pegged it perfectly.

“It’s Odell Beckham Jr.,” Hasquet said after yet another acrobatic catch by the Oredigger sophomore. “But without the whining.”

As a curmudgeon who could never stand the antics from receivers like Michael Irvin, there is not much I despise more in sports than the cocky athlete who whines when he doesn’t get his way or rubs his success in the face of his opponent.

I particularly disliked Cris Carter, who would follow a touchdown reception by taunting a defensive back before hitting his knees for a big, over-exaggerated prayer.

Today’s receivers, though, are so bad that they make Irvin and Carter look like the ever-humble Barry Sanders.

When a receiver isn’t showing up an opponent, then he is crying about the quarterback not throwing him a ball. Or he’s crying to the official for not calling pass interference.

Seriously, Beckham and many of his fellow wide receivers whine more than professional soccer players. Even when Beckham has a big game, like he did Sunday, he makes the game all about himself and not his team.

That is why Williams’ play at Montana Tech is so refreshing.

Actually, the play of the entire Montana Tech football team has been a treat for the Mining City, and that isn’t only because the Orediggers won five straight games.

The Orediggers are doing it without pretense, and that is a rare quality in today’s sporting world.

“They’re humble,” Montana Tech head coach Chuck Morrell said. “That’s the biggest thing about our kids. They’re humble.”

That quality doesn’t stop with the football team, either. It is a trait that keeps popping up among every sport on campus.

“They’re grateful for the opportunity to be here,” said Morrell, who doubles as the school’s athletic director. “They’re grateful for the community. They’re grateful for the support. There’s not a sense of entitlement.”

A couple months back I wrote about cornerback Andre Brown playing catch with my son on the sideline at the Montana East-West Shrine Game. That is the kind of an act that has become the norm for the Orediggers.

My son Grady and his best pal Kaleb are now huge Oredigger fans because, in recent games, they got their picture taken with Brown, Anthony Nelson, Nolan Saraceni and Quinn McQueary.

My son spends a little time with me on the sidelines during games, and he’s had multiple Tech players go out of their way to engage with him.

“Hey, what’s up little man,” linebacker Drew Schleeman said as he offered a fist bump late in one game.

When Brown had a penalty wiped out his 105-yard interception return against Rocky Mountain College, Grady was one of the first people he talked to. Even though Brown just had a school record taken off the books, the cornerback was all smiles as he engaged with his biggest fan.

Then, there was the local NFL Punt, Pass & Kick competition at Bulldog Memorial Stadium on Oct. 2. It was rainy and cold, but a whole host of Montana Tech players were there to measure every punt, pass and kick.

If the players didn’t want to give up their Sunday to be there in the cold, you would have never known it. Actually, Williams was having way too much fun.

Working with a group of 8- and 9-year-old boys, Williams engaged in arguments about each young athlete’s NFL team. Every boy yelled out his favorite team to see what Williams’ reaction was, and he had some good ones.

Then, the receiver led the group in exercises to keep them all warm.

Montana Tech receiver Dion Williams helps a group of boys warm up for the local NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition with some high knees in the rain Sunday at Bulldog Memorial Stadium.

Montana Tech receiver Dion Williams helps a group of boys warm up for the local NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition with some high knees in the rain Oct. 2 at Bulldog Memorial Stadium.

Like Brown playing catch with an 8-year-old boy he never met before, that is something you just can’t fake.

Whether it’s the Special Olympics, Little Guy Football or walking young children to school — like they did on Oct. 5 — Orediggers always seem to be there to help.

“We’ve had a strong emphasis on community outreach the last couple of years, and we’re starting to see the benefit right now,” Morrell said. “People are saying, ‘Hey Quinn McQueary came to my school and he said hi to me or he talked to me or he high-fived me.’ What’s that kid saying to his mom and dad? ‘Are we going to the game or what?’”

The Oredigger football games have been packed, too. Even the week after the Orediggers’ heartbreaking season-opening loss at Carroll College, fans filled the stadium.

Montana Tech athletes have always been great to deal with. I’ve covered the Orediggers for the better part of two decades, and there has hardly been a bad moment. The student-athletes have long made the school and the community proud.

Now that I have the perspective of being a dad of a boy who idolizes the Orediggers, I am seeing it from a totally different perspective.

“We’ve got a good bunch of kids,” Morrell said. “I’ve got a great bunch of kids up there right now, and it’s neat to see.”

The Orediggers are also great for the older fans, too. They are winning football games and doing it in a fashion that old-school fans can truly appreciate.

Williams caught two touchdown passes in the first quarter to help the Orediggers avenge that tough loss to Carroll in front of a packed house this past Saturday. After each score, he simply tossed the ball to the official and left the field.

Sure, you can’t spike the ball without a penalty in college football, but nothing says you have give the ball to the referee. Nothing says you don’t have to be modest.

“I just happened to be open,” Williams explained after the game, as if it was no big deal. Then he went on about how great his teammates have been playing.

The Montana Tech football team has more than 100 guys in uniform, and you will have to look really hard if you want to find one self-entitled brat in the bunch.

That is something that is very, very rare in sports at any level.

“That’s the one thing you try to do at all cost, and that’s keep the sense of entitlement away,” Morrell said. “We don’t have that right now, and that’s why good things are happening.”

O’Dell Beckham Jr. might want to take note.

— Bill Foley, who has a false sense of entitlement, writes a column that appears Tuesday on ButteSports.com. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.



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