By Bill Foley
Aidan Lee had been waiting for the call for about as long as he can remember, and he almost never answered it.
The now former Butte High Bulldog did not recognize the number of Jeff Hartwick, the West Team Coordinator for the Montana East-West Shrine Game.
“I was on my way to baseball practice when he called me,” Lee said after a practice at Naranche Stadium Monday. “I didn’t know the number, so I was hesitant to answer.”
Something told Lee he should get this one, so he picked up.
“I’m really glad I answered that call,” Lee said. “We talked and he said he wanted me to play defensive end and defensive tackle. I was just happy to do it.”
For Lee, the call represented a dream come true. It means he will represent the West Side during the 74th Montana East-West Shrine Game, which will be held Saturday at Daylis Stadium in Billings.
Lee and the rest of the West players are practicing for head coach Dane Oliver of Missoula Sentinel throughout the week at Butte High.
“It was really the ultimate goal,” Lee said of the Shrine Game. “This is probably the most prestigious game in Montana to play in. I just think it is really an honor to be able to play in it.”
The selection comes after Lee was a force for the Bulldogs, particularly on defense, for the last three seasons. He played nose guard as a sophomore and started at defensive end as a junior.
Lee, who also started on the offensive line as a senior while moving to fullback in goal-line situations, was a key figure in Butte High’s run to the Class AA state championship game in 2019. From the first time he stepped foot on the field in purple and white, Lee was always one of those players with a nose for the ball.
Whenever Butte High recovered a fumble, you could always bet on Lee being right in the middle of the action.
“I see ball and just try to get it,” Lee said.
He also had a nose for getting to the quarterback. His 14 career sacks ranks him among the leaders since Butte High started keeping track under head coach Arie Grey. He registered a team-leading five and a half sacks as a senior.
Now, Lee is be playing on a defensive line that is definitely worthy of the “All-Star” designation.
“I think I’m going to start at defensive tackle and be bouncing back,” Lee said. “I think mainly at defensive tackle because of the numbers.”
Through two days of practice, Lee seems to fit in quite nicely with the “best of the best” of Western Montana.
“It’s been a great time,” Lee said. “It’s really cool being with everybody, the best in the state pretty much. I like all the guys. It’s just a really good time.”
Saturday’s game will be the last for Lee, who will not be playing football beyond high school, though he clearly could pursue such a career if he wished. The standout first baseman for the Butte Miners could also look for a college baseball team to play on, too.
He said he considered football, but not really baseball.
“I obviously love baseball, but football is just a different type of love for me,” he said.
Instead, Lee will focus on his education. He plans to go to Montana Tech for a couple of years before transferring to the University of Montana’s pharmacy school.
That seems to be a solid plan for an honors student who received just two B’s while earning a cumulative 3.95 at Butte High.
Of course, a football program just might be able to change his mind after they get a glimpse of Lee playing in the game that raises money for the Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane.
“I’m open minded,” Lee said with a smile.
The No. 1 thing for Lee, though, will be to make the most out of playing in the game that was his “ultimate goal.”
“It will be an experience,” Lee said. “I’m excited.”
— Butte Sports will profile the five Butte players on the West Side leading up to Saturday’s 74th Montana East-West Shrine Game in Billings. The other four players are Ty Raiha, Jake Olson, Bryan Holland and D.J. Jackson.