Joe Joyce on vacation for Shriners

For Joe Joyce, earning a spot in the 67th Montana East-West Shrine Game took a solid career playing football at Butte Central.

And one very understanding boss.

Joyce was selected as an alternate to the Shrine Game on Christmas Day. He wasn’t named to the West roster until last week.

So Joyce needed to take an unexpected week off — on extremely short notice — from his job working at the Alley Rally for Butte-Silver Bow.

“He was pretty cool about it,” Joyce says of notifying his supervisor, Ed Randall. “He knew. He understood. The Shrine Game is a big deal.”

The call from West team coordinator Jeff Hartwick didn’t come until last Tuesday night, four days before the West team began a week’s worth of practice at Montana Tech.

“I was at my friend’s house,” Joyce says. “I got the call and it was Jeff Hartwick. I knew right off the bat that he was giving me the call.”

The call, which he didn’t anticipate, also came after Joyce had come to accept the fact that he wasn’t going to play football ever again.

“At first they had me at running back,” Joyce says of his position as an alternate. “All the running backs here are pretty good, and they’re all pretty close. I didn’t think anyone was going to bow out.”

Once he stepped on Montana Tech’s Bob Green Field, Joyce was impressed with his new teammates. The squad is absolutely stacked with talent at every position, Joyce says.

“It’s cool seeing all these guys,” he says. “They’re the best of the best in western Montana. It’s pretty cool to be on the same team as them.”

Joyce, who, along with his cousin Frank Joyce, was a captain for the 2012 Maroons, will play safety for the West team.

That’s a position he earned all-conference honors at last year. Joyce also took home all-conference accolades on offense, where he played receiver and running back for the Maroons.

He was one of just five seniors that led a team in transition earn a spot in the playoffs, something BC coach Don Peoples Jr. said was an important accomplishment for the future of the season.

The Maroons saw the season end with a playoff loss at Frenchtown, and Joyce figured his career was over.

While he entered his senior season hoping for a chance to play college football, he decided against it when presented that opportunity.

Joyce discussed playing football at Montana Tech, and coach Chuck Morrell told him he could be a preferred walk-on player at Montana Tech.

“I talked a little bit to coach Morrell, and it just didn’t seem that appealing,” Joyce says. “It’s like a job, and I want to focus on school now. (College football) is an everyday thing, and it’s such a bigger commitment than high school football.”

Instead, Joyce will focus on his education. He says he plans to go to Montana Tech for a year to get some required classes out of the way. Then he’ll transfer to the University of Montana and major in psychology.

“That’s the plan, anyway,” Joyce says.

Joyce’s plans changed a little bit when he woke up Christmas morning. That’s when he learned he was an alternate on the West team and could potentially play another football game.

“I didn’t even know. I woke up the next morning and my parents knew before me,” Joyce says. “My dad (Jim) was pretty stoked about it. He was the first one to tell me. He was probably more excited than I was at that point. He’s a big football guy.”

When the call came last week, the first thing Joe Joyce did was tell his dad.

“I called him right after I got the call from Jeff,” Joyce says.

Once on the team, Joyce got a first-hand experience about what the Shrine Game is all about from two people who spent a lot of time as patients at the Shriners Hospital For Children in Spokane.

“That’s what we’re playing for,” Joyce says.

The proceeds from the game go to the Shriners Hospital. Last time the game was in Butte, it raised more than $103,000 for the cause.

That large sum of money directly benefited Tucker Thatcher and Sudah Davis, two Butte youths who addressed the players on Saturday. Joyce knows both Thatcher and Davis. In fact, he coached Davis, who has two prosthetic legs, during her fifth-grade basketball season this past school year.

“It was pretty sad when she said we’re playing for her to have legs,” Joyce says. “That was cool. It’s a little extra motivation.”

As if the week off of work wasn’t enough motivation for Joyce.

“It would be nice if I got a paid vacation,” he says with a laugh. “I’d rather be here anyways. I’m pretty stoked about it. I get one more chance to get out and put the pads on.”

Note: will profile all eight Butte players on the West team roster before the 67th Montana East-West Shrine Game is played on Saturday, July 20. Butte players in the game are Northey Tretheway, Nick Butorovich, Bryce Armstrong, Anthony Moritz, Zach Bunney, Drew Schleeman, Joe Joyce and Jon Allen.

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