Gary Monahan never got into the Butte Sport Hall of Fame. At least not when he was alive.
The 1962 Butte Central graduate passed away about a month ago, according to family and friends. Fittingly, his death came just before the induction of the Butte Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2019.
Monahan wanted nothing more than to be a part of that class.
Without question, Monahan had the credentials to be in the conversation for the Butte Sports Hall of Fame. He was every two years.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, Monahan was a standout football player, first at Butte Central and then at Eastern Montana College.
Monahan played quarterback for the Maroons and Yellowjackets. He started under center for the Maroons in 1960 and 1961. He earned an All-State honorable mention both seasons, throwing or running for a total of 20 touchdowns.
At Eastern Montana College, which is now named MSU-Billings, Monahan earned a letter in all four years at the school. He was a co-captain and was named All-Montana Collegiate at quarterback in 1964.
As a junior and a senior, Monahan helped lead Eastern to back-to-back Montana Collegiate Conference championships.
When he left Butte Central, Monahan’s 15 career touchdown passes ranked second in school history behind only Jim McCaughey. His 995 passing yards also ranked No. 2 behind McCaughey.
Those numbers might not be eye-popping now. Football, of course, is a much different game these days, so it is hard to compare Monahan’s stats to current players.
You can, however, judge him by how he compared to his contemporaries. No matter how you look at it, you are in pretty darn good company when your named is mentioned anywhere near McCaughey’s.
McCaughey was also once mentioned with Bob O’Billovich, “Jumpin’” Joe Kelly, Swede Dahlberg, Milt Popovich, Jim Sweeney, Bob Hawke, Bull Cullen, Bob O’Mally, Danny Hanley, Walter T. Scott, Sylvia (White) Blaine and Judy (Morstein) Martz as a member of the inaugural Butte Sports Hall of Fame class in 1987.
Those names are as legendary as they get in these parts.
Monahan, who was selected as a member of Butte Central’s All-Century football team in 1999, was a member of two different halls of fame — at least. In 2011, Monahan was inducted into the Eastern Montana College Hall of Fame.
Last year, he was named to the Montana High School Associations Hall of Fame.
The 2018 MHSA Hall of Fame included Travis Dorsch of Bozeman, Lindsey (Graham) Gustafson of Great Falls Russell, Tim Hauck of Big Timber, Terry Idler of Malta, Zoe Nelson of Kalispell Flathead, Joslyn Tinkle of Missoula Big Sky and Travis Walker of Fort Benton/Plentywood.
Again, that is pretty good company to say the least.
Dorsch won the Ray Guy Award when he punted for Purdue. Hauck, whose uncle Tom Hauck is a member of the 2019 Butte Sports Hall of Fame, was a big-hitting safety for the Montana Grizzlies and Philadelphia Eagles. He still coaches in the NFL.
Eagles fans revere Hauck for leveling the big hit on Michael Irvin that ended the career of the Cowboys’ loudmouth receiver.
Nelson might be the best high school runner I have ever seen, and Tinkle certainly ranks among the best female basketball players in Montana history.
And mentioned among those Montana legends was Butte Central graduate Gary Monahan.
What a great honor it is to be named to a hall of fame — any hall of fame.
I would be the happiest guy in the world to be named to the Walkerville Dog Walker Hall of Fame.
For Monahan, though, there was only one hall of fame he really wanted. He wanted to don the green jacket of the Butte Sports Hall of Fame.
He told me that soon after I was named executive director of the Butte Sports Hall of Fame. With a change of leadership following the death of Hall of Fame co-founder and chairman Pat Kearney, Monahan called me to make sure he was still nominated.
He also asked to make sure that his information included his latest hall of fame induction.
As executive director, I do not lobby for or vote for anybody to be selected to the Hall of Fame. Quietly, though, I rooted for Monahan to get the call.
Being on the other end of that call would have been thrilling, as well.
He did not get voted in when his candidacy went before the Hall of Fame selection committee. Then he never received enough votes from the current Hall of Fame members when he was on the veterans ballot.
He waited and waited, but Monahan never got that call.
I often wondered how disappointed he was when he saw the reports of another class of Hall of Famers get the news he had wanted so badly to hear.
In life and death, Monahan probably never received the recognition he deserved. His obituary has yet to appear on the website of any newspapers. Public services have not been held.
When it is all said and done, however, Gary Monahan had no reason to feel shame for being left out of the Hall. His career spoke for itself.
Players who played against him or those who watched Monahan play always speak highly of him. They talk about his days pole vaulting. They mention his basketball ability.
Above all, they mention Monahan the football player.
When the names of the Butte greats were mentioned, Monahan’s name was often mention. It was not, however, mentioned enough to get him fitted for his green jacket.
The exclusivity of the Butte Hall is incredible. It took Walter Lonner and Tom Pomroy Sr. until they were 85 years old to get the call that easily could have come when they were 55.
While the Butte Sports Hall of Fame has been around for 32 years, it still has some serious catching up to do. That is not easy since the Hall only enshrines a class every other year.
It has been said that we could make one heck of a hall of fame out of the people who have been nominated for and yet to be selected for the Butte Sports Hall of Fame.
Monahan is one of them. He might be on top of the list.
He and others like him have made the Butte Sports Hall of Fame even better than could have ever been imagined. Monahan unquestionably raised the stature of the men and women who did get the call.
The desire of such an accomplished athlete to join them in a green jacket lends credit to the Butte legends. He makes the glow of their spotlight shine more brightly, even though he had to stand in the shadows.
For that, all of those lucky enough to get the call to the Butte Sports Hall of Fame will forever owe a debt of gratitude to people like Gary Monahan.
— Bill Foley, who is thinking about starting the Walkerville Dog Walkers Hall of Fame, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.