Brant Ahlborn isn’t nearly the football player he was a year ago, and that’s a good thing.
The 6-foot-3 junior Butte Central right guard lost nearly the equivalent of a lightweight high school wrestler to become key contributor for a football team planning on getting back in the Class A playoffs in 2012.
BC coaches said they documented that Ahlborn lost at least 65 or 70 pounds, but Ahlborn says it was more like 90.
“I think I maxed out at 360,” the 276-pound Ahlborn says.
Either way, Ahlborn wasn’t in nearly good enough shape to contribute for the Maroons a year ago. That has changed a ton.
“It sucked so much last year,” Ahlborn says. “I kind of realized I had to work out or I wasn’t going to get anywhere.”
So, beginning in March, Ahlborn started working out — hard. He’d show up at the Maroon Activities Center at least four days a week to work out under the direction of BC offensive line coach Doug Peoples.
“I had a personal trainer, Coach Doug,” Ahlborn says. “I’d show up every morning and it would be just me and him, and he’d have me work out until I couldn’t work out any more. It was kind of a combine of everything.”
BC head coach Don Peoples Jr. said they could see the football player within Ahlborn from the start.
“He’s got great natural strength. We just needed to get him in shape. He did a great job turning himself into a football player,” Peoples said. “As he got in better and better shape, he’s gotten more confidence, which made him work even harder.”
Over the summer, Ahlborn’s white Bronco was a fixture in the MAC parking lot in the early mornings.
When he went home, the work didn’t stop.
He says he worked hard on his family’s large property south of town.
“Every time I’d go home I’d do yard work that usually consisted of moving rocks and digging trenches,” Ahlborn says. He says he helped dig to put in a new sprinkler system, landscaped and helped his mother dig in the garden.
For the first two games of the season, the work paid off for Ahlborn and the Maroons. After a tough home loss to Belgrade — a loss in which BC dominated the stats but fell short on the scoreboard — the Maroons went to Havre and rolled the Blue Ponies.
“In the first two games he did an outstanding job on the offensive line,” Peoples says. “In Havre, we threw an interception, and he ran across the field to make a tremendous tackle. It was a very athletic play. That really demonstrated how far he’s come.”
Ahlborn, though, was forced out of the starting lineup the last two games with an injury he isn’t very proud of. He suffered a concussion in a fall in the weight room, smacking his head on a bar.
“I was hoping this year if I got a concussion it would at least be on the field with some honor to it,” Ahlborn says.
The lineman played in the second half of Friday’s loss at Laurel. He says nothing can keep him off the field Friday when the Maroons play host to rival Anaconda in the Southwestern A opener at Bulldog Memorial Stadium.
“That’s a game I don’t want to miss,” Ahlborn says.
Last year’s game featured a pre-game argument with Anaconda players and coaches and BC coaches after the Copperhead players chanted “We hate BC” and worse at Memorial Stadium. Ahlborn remembers that well.
The Maroons used the added motivation to their advantage and trounced the Copperheads 42-18 that night.
This year, Ahlborn, a backup on the defensive line, is in much better shape to show the BC rivals how little he appreciated last year’s chant.
“It helps to be in shape,” he says. “I feel faster.” He also feels much stronger.
“I think my max bench is about 285 (pounds) now,” Ahlborn says. “My max squat is like 330. It’s about a 50-pound gain in everything.”
He also gained some credits during the summer.
On his own, Ahlborn took algebra II at the Sylvan Learning Center under former Butte Central teacher Tom Boyle. He didn’t take the class to catch up. He was looking to get ahead.
“I wanted to do AP (advanced placement) calculus before I left for college,” he explains. “I really want to be an engineer and I want to get a bit of a step forward in calculus.”
“I want to be an engineer, so I thought I really want to learn calculus,” Ahlborn says. “I would wake up at about 5 o’clock every morning, come work out, go to Sylvan, go home, work, and that was pretty much my day.”
If that strikes you as unusual behavior for a high school boy, though, you better brace yourself.
Ahlborn is what you call a Brony.
That is the term giving to hard-core fans of a certain cartoon.
“I’m the exact opposite of everyone in there,” Ahlborn says, pointing to the BC locker room at the MAC. “I’m a bit of a nerd; I like math and science. I don’t know how to say this, but I watch a certain show that most people don’t watch. It’s called My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.”
Yes, it is that My Little Pony, the cartoon that started in the 1980s.
“It’s a cartoon about colorful ponies,” Ahlborn says. “It’s actually really cool, and I like it. There’s a big community around it, they’re called ‘Bronies.’ There’s a bunch of them around Montana, and we had a meeting a couple of Sundays ago. It was nice to see everyone.”
Most Bronies collect everything that has to do with the cartoon.
“I actually do have some merchandise,” Ahlborn says. “I wear shirts. I have a belt. I don’t bring toys to school or anything, but I have a friend who has some in his locker.
“I even have a friend in the National Guard, and he loves it. (The cartoon) is in the fourth generation, and people just love it for some reason. It was just to sell the dolls — and it still is — but they suddenly realized we have this weird fan base that just showed up out of the blue.”
Ahlborn’s Butte Central teammates know about his Brony status, but they know better than to tease a lineman who lost nearly 90 pounds to get to 276.
“They wouldn’t dare give me anything about it,” he says.
The Copperheads would be wise to stay away from the subject as well. The last thing they need is more motivation for Ahlborn and the boys.
Of course, that might be already too late.
“They’ve never been nice to us,” Ahlborn says. “So I don’t think we should be nice back.”