Down With Montana Boys

Down With Montana Boys

An open letter to former congressman Pat Williams:

As I’m sure you already know, Mr. Williams, Colt Anderson battled back from a horrible knee injury late in the 2011 NFL season only to regain his All-Pro form as a special teams ace on the Philadelphia Eagles.

The former Butte High and University of Montana star also started at safety the last month of the season. Whether its volunteering his time to promote a great cause like Mariah’s Challenge or stopping to sign countless autographs for his young fans, Colt has been a sparkling ambassador for Butte and Montana while winning the hearts of Eagles fans.

He is a role model’s role model.

When readers of the New York Times see the “Montana” next to Colt’s name when they see him play on TV next season, though, only one word will come to mind: Thug.

The same could be said for every current or former University of Montana football player, including the members of the 2013 recruiting class head coach Mick Delaney unveiled Wednesday. That’s because one day after national signing day your destructive words about the Grizzlies hit the country’s largest newspaper.

For the few people who didn’t read your comments, Mr. Williams, here’s what you, a member of the Montana Board of Regents and one of the most respected men in our state, said in your broad-brush statement about the Montana boys:

“We’ve had sex assaults, vandalism, beatings by football players. The university has recruited thugs for its football team, and this thuggery has got to stop.”

Oh, sure, you didn’t mean to call all the Grizzlies thugs when you spoke to The Times reporter. You also said you weren’t talking about former quarterback Jordan Johnson, who is on trial for a rape charge that came as the school and the city of Missoula are being investigated for sweeping similar cases under the rug.

You didn’t realize the reason the newspaper was talking to you was because the Johnson trial was about to start?

If not Johnson, then whom did you mean to point your finger at when you spoke to the The Times?

Actually, it doesn’t matter. To the world, you pointed a finger at all of the players, current and past. Like it or not, you called them all thugs.

Then, when given the chance to retract that comment, you instead stood by it and even repeated the “thug” accusation the day The Times story ran.

How can a man who has been so right on so many issues over his long, distinguished career as a public servant be so, so shortsighted in this case?

Clearly, the University of Montana and Missoula in general has had a problem in recent years. Many of the problems — like the school vice president (who isn’t related to me) who tried to punish an alleged rape victim for publicly speaking about how the university handled her case — were guys who wore ties to work, not guys who fit the thug stereotype.

The University of Montana is hardly alone in facing criminal problems. Many other schools, including one in the same state, have seen high-profile crimes over the years. I didn’t hear you blasting them on the world stage.

Also, the sense of entitlement the Grizzly football players are said to feel is hardly unique in the world of college football. You’ll find that to some extent on just about every college campus in the country — even the ones where the football team stinks.

Hopefully the University of Montana is making strides in correcting the way it addresses all crime allegations. Hopefully the school takes steps to prevent those crimes in the first place.

The school seemingly is working towards that end, but it is not as simple as avoiding “thugs” when recruiting a linebacker.

How exactly do you recommend the school avoid recruiting “thugs,” anyway? Do we sort them by race? Or is it by economic background? Or should they use some kind of a questionnaire asking the student-athletes if they plan to commit any crimes during their time in Missoula?

It’s not like the Grizzlies have been signing players who are on parole. They’re not getting transfers from California Penal.

Surely, it’s hard for coaches to determine which players will turn out to be trouble. Johnson surely doesn’t look like a guy who would end up in such a high-profile trial in Missoula. The allegations against Johnson, who is straight out of central casting for Everybody’s All-American, might be the biggest off-the-field black eye the Grizzlies have ever suffered.

Your comments made the blemish even worse because you put every other Grizzly on trial with the former quarterback.

As I read your words, my mind turned to the Butte players on the Grizzly roster. Jake Dallaserra, Jonathan Richards and Aschan Richards certainly don’t look or act like thugs, and I’m sure you would agree with that.

Still, they are the ones forever branded by a member of the Board of Regents.

So were former Butte Grizzlies like Randy Riley, Brian Toone, Josh Paffhausen, Lance Allen, Todd Ericson, Jaison Carriger, Chris Connors and Danny Orizotti, just to name a few.

We also can’t forget Coach Delaney. Mean it or not, you sure threw your childhood friend from the Mining City directly under the bus. In the New York Times, too. This wasn’t the Tribune, Gazette or Missoulian you were talking to.

I see where you’re planning on sitting down with Coach Delaney. I might suggest you start the conversation with the following words: “Mick, I am sorry …”

Since you defiantly stood by your “thuggery” comment, I assume you don’t feel like you owe an apology to every member of “Griz Nation.”

If you were to look into the eyes of one of the very un-thug-like Montana boys from your home town, however, you might change your mind.

— Sportswriter Bill Foley writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 8 comments



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8 Comments

  • Jaison Carriger
    February 12, 2013, 6:37 am

    Good article Foles, Thank you!

    REPLY
  • Dale
    February 12, 2013, 7:56 am

    Great article, Foley, but I very much question the “distinguished career” remark. If anyone is a political thug, it would be Pat Williams.

    REPLY
  • Rae Ann Rowling
    February 12, 2013, 1:00 pm

    Thanks Foley!! Delaney has done a stand up job since his return & I’m sure in his interview he will opt to take the high road, as he is also a gentleman.

    REPLY
    • Karl@Rae Ann Rowling
      February 13, 2013, 12:04 am

      Pat Williams is a elitist politician trying to still make a name for himself. The guy repulses me. He’s a left wing nut job in my opinion. For years I thought he was alright, but after living in Missoula for z16 years I came to realize he just panders to the left mentality. Tell me I’m wrong. Read his articles from the last ten years. He’s a Washington lapdog just like the rest of them. He needs to go away.

      REPLY
  • David Ferguson
    February 12, 2013, 5:17 pm

    Well said Bill. I emailed Mr. Williams a similar, if not as eloquent, message. His words are particularly troublesome coming from a BOR member. They are prejudicial at the eve of Jordan’s trial, and untimely given all the steps the university has taken in the past year or so to fix the problems- actions of which Williams is fully aware.

    REPLY
  • Shelly Turner
    February 12, 2013, 6:53 pm

    Thank you Mr. Foley! I am a a Missoula girl, born and raised. I am also a U of M graduate. My oldest son is attending his first year of college at the University of Montana. My nephews Jace and Tyler Palmer played Wide Receiver and Defensive End for the Griz. I teach school in Dillon, Montana, the home of Bryce Carver, Wide Receiver for the Griz and other players from this area as well. Pat Williams should be ashamed of himself. So many fine, upstanding young men who have achieved great things athletically and academically at the University of Montana should not be thrown under the bus with the few who have had issues!

    REPLY

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