Margie Fogarty was a nervous wreck as she sat, bundled up in the front row at Naranche Stadium.
She almost shuddered at the noise of the stadium as the Butte High football team was introduced before its semifinal playoff game against Billings West. The deafening sound certainly was not easing her nerves as kickoff approached.
Mrs. Fogarty sat next to her husband, Butte Sports Hall of Famer Gene Fogarty. He was such a big deal to sports and education in the Mining City that the entire sports complex housing the gym, football stadium, practice fields and track at East Middle School is named in his honor.
Every week, Mr. and Mrs. Fogarty sit quietly and watch their grandson play for the Bulldogs. Perhaps the only quiet people in the stadium, their humbleness is unmatched, except for maybe by their grandson.
“I hope they win,” Mrs. Fogarty said of the Bulldogs as the team captains lined up for the coin toss. “I hope Tommy plays well. He deserves this. He works so hard. He’s such a good kid.”
“But I am so nervous.”
I could not help but laugh at Mrs. Fogarty’s trepidation. She was worried about the performance of the one player whose mere presence put the rest of the stadium at ease.
Her grandson, you see, is the incomparable Tommy Mellott, the quarterback of the undefeated Butte High Bulldogs.
Whenever doubts creep up for Bulldog fans, they immediately subside at the sight of No. 2.
Tommy Mellott is the kind of talent that only comes around so often. Add in his smarts, composure, leadership and model citizenship, and you have the kind of player who comes around once in a generation.
He is the first quarterback in Butte High history to run for 1,000 yards in a single season, and he recently passed Jay LeProwse to become Butte High’s all-time leading rusher. Yes, rusher.
With 69 touchdown passes in his career, Mellott trails only Dallas Cook’s 75 in school history.
He is also one win away from joining the likes of Cook, Josh Paffhausen, Don Douglas and Barry Sullivan as Butte High quarterbacks to lead Butte High to state titles in the last 50 years.
If Mellott does not win the Montana Gatorade Player of the Year award, they should get rid of the award.
While Mellott has blazing speed, great instincts and a cannon for an arm, he will not be outworked by anybody. Nobody spends more time studying film or putting in the extra work.
In the end zones of Naranche Stadium, Butte High has signs that read “Takes No Talent.”
That motto sums up this Bulldog team perfectly. It does not take talent to work hard and try to get better every day.
The team has players who have little talent, but have worked themselves into good players. It has players who have very good talent but have worked to become great.
When you have such a gifted athlete as Mellott willing to work that hard, well, that has the makings for a superstar, and that is exactly what he is on the football field.
Of course, his success on the field does not even begin to tell the story of Tommy Mellott. Not even close.
Exactly 24 hours before the Bulldogs took on Kalispell Glacier in the quarterfinals of the Class AA playoffs, Mellott stood in the “high-five line” to welcome athletes in the parade of teams for the Special Olympics Montana State Basketball Tournament.
There, Mellott high fived all of the nearly 1,000 enthusiastic Special Olympians.
Mellott is a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butte. He has attended birthday parties for young fans he just met.
He acknowledges kids who hang over the fence on the Bulldog sideline at Naranche Stadium looking for high fives and fist bumps from their hero.
Tommy is going to play football and study at Montana State University in Bozeman.
He probably has what it takes to play in the NFL someday. However, his skills might be better put to use as a brain surgeon or an astronaut.
Tommy has already been asked to give the sixth grade graduation commencement address at two different elementary schools in Butte, and graduation is still more than six months away.
The name Tommy Mellott is a name we have known for a long time. I first heard of him when he set multiple records at the Grade School Track Meet. Then I saw his name scoring touchdowns in Little Guy Football.
I first knew we had something truly special when he was at East Middle School and I was lucky enough to read a Veterans Day essay Mellott wrote for school.
In the paper, Mellott wrote about the importance of treating veterans with respect. Nobody told him to write that. He just did.
Even at such a young age, it was clear that Mellott was so wise beyond his years.
Never, though, could any of us expect Mellott to smash the unreasonable expectations placed on his shoulders as he walked into the hallways of Butte High. He is on pace to earn 12 varsity letters for the Bulldogs, contributing in football, basketball and track since he was a freshman.
That Mellott stands out on this Bulldog team says so much. The team is full of fellow players straight out of central casting for Captain America.
This is a group that gives you more than confidence going into Friday’s state championship football game. They give you confidence in the future of humanity.
Bulldog coach Arie Grey talks about how the outstanding leadership and citizenship of his senior class has rubbed off on the lower classes.
Mellott has rubbed off on the entire city.
After Friday’s win, the quarterback was swamped with kids who wanted to meet him and maybe get a picture with the superstar.
Other kids, and some adults, just wanted to get a look at him up close.
“You’ll be out here playing someday,” Mellott told some of the young fans.
Butte High has a tough game coming up Friday against Bozeman. The Hawks will come to town winners of nine straight.
The Hawks have tons of talented players, and they have a great coaching staff. They also want to beat the Bulldogs as much as they want to breathe.
Naranche Stadium will be packed and loud, and Mrs. Fogarty will be a nervous wreck.
Her grandson, meanwhile, will once again be the No. 1 reason why the rest of the stadium will be highly confident.
— Bill Foley, who is not straight out of central casting for Captain America, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. Check out his NFL picks every Thursday. 6 comments