Just when you think that Tommy Mellott could not be any more impressive, the Butte High quarterback says, “Oh yeah, hold my Gatorade.”
The Butte High quarterback was invited to give a commencement address to his alma mater, Margaret Leary Elementary.
The coronavirus pandemic will prevent that from happening, so the Gatorade Montana Football Player of the Year took it upon himself to write the graduating Mustangs a letter.
I just might be speaking out of school when it comes to this letter, which was leaked to me by someone not related to Mellott in anyway.
A baldheaded anonymous source showed it me, and I have to share some of it with the world.
The nearly 1,200-word letter definitely comes from the heart of one of the greatest Bulldogs of all time, and it opens with the best spin yet on the lockdown on the pandemic. That lockdown is costing the boys and girls the last three months of their sixth-grade year.
“The resiliency that each of you have shown despite these unusual and unfortunate times is remarkable and will help you in your future,” Mellott wrote.
The future Montana State Bobcat focused on the positive while acknowledging the irreplaceable time and memories each boy and girl lost.
“I think this pandemic has taught all of us a valuable lesson. A lesson that I wish I would have known when I was your age,” Mellott wrote. “That lesson I learned is to make the most of every opportunity.”
With that, he encouraged the students to join clubs and teams while at middle school and high school, and he was not just recruiting for the Bulldog football team. That is because Mellott is so much more than just a football player.
“You will always have your friends from Margaret Leary, but do not be nervous to find new friends as well,” he wrote. “Join the robotics club, join the cross-country team, join the choir, join the band. These are all great opportunities to be around great people and have fun. Everyone is unique and has different skills. Be proud of your skills because you all are amazing in your own way, and do not let anyone tell you differently. Be the person you want to be and make the most of your skills because, at the end of the day, you should be the most important person in your life. Invest in yourself. Love yourself.”
If words like that are going to hit home from anyone, it will be from Mellott.
Every boy in town wants to be just like him. So do their dads.
His leadership with words and by example can show boys and girls and men and women what it takes to be successful.
Mellott is clearly a gifted natural athlete. He is fast, quick, strong, smart and has great reflexes.
He also studies film enough to coach his coaches. He is also the hardest worker every day.
Jake Dennehy, the hero of the 2012 Butte High championship team, knows Mellott well, and he is seven years older.
That is because Mellott, as a fifth grader, used to go to summer workouts with the Bulldogs. He did not go to be the ball boy, either. He was there to be a quarterback.
Mellott also paid attention to the great leaders before him.
Just six short years ago, Mellott sat at the Margaret Leary graduation as Leo McCarthy, the founder of Mariah’s Challenge, spoke to his graduation class.
The next day, Mellott promised himself that he would follow the ideals of Mariah’s Challenge, which is to not drink underage and to never drink and drive.
Last week, McCarthy released a list of 21 recipients of the 11th Annual Mariah Daye McCarthy Scholarship.
Mellott was one of them.
Most, but not all, of the scholarship winners are accomplished athletes. All of them are remarkable young men and women.
Even Reece Cox has overcome the major character flaw of cheering for the New York Yankees to become part of the group of strong-willed individuals that is dedicated to making the streets of Butte and the rest of the world safer.
The other recipients are Sophie Barth, Ellie Boothe, Emily Campbell, Morgan Dickinson, Sydney Doyle, Trisha Ericson, Emma Field, Sean Foley, Emma Keeley, Lucas Kingston, Emma Kouppala, Grace Luoma, Kira Mortensen, Kaven Noctor, Alexander Perala, Jenna Sanders, Coyt Stajcar, Quinn Sullivan and Sophie Sullivan.
Those scholarship winners probably do not remember the night Mariah McCarthy was killed.
Actually, a lot of adults might not.
Mariah was killed when she and two of her friends were run over by an underage drunk driver just after midnight on October 28, 2007. She was 14 years old, and she was walking home on a path on the side of the road.
At her funeral, Leo started a movement that is still strong today thanks the scholarship winners of today and yesterday.
While we will never be able to say for sure — because only negative statistics are kept on the highway — Mariah’s Challenge has saved lives. Your life could very well be one of the saved.
Thanks to Mellott’s letter, it will still be saving lives six years from now.
“The accomplishment that I am most proud of was that I stayed true to a commitment I made back when I was your age,” Mellott wrote of Mariah’s Challenge.
He told the sixth graders that the Challenge is not just lip service.
“It was hard to tell my friends ‘no’ when they asked me to drink,” he wrote. “It was hard to leave some friends when they did not accept me for my goal. However, I stayed true to myself and will soon accomplish the challenge. This challenge has taught me what it means to be disciplined. Disciplined in refraining from drinking, but also disciplined in school. Disciplined in relationships. Disciplined in clubs. Disciplined in athletics. In fact, I believe part of the reason I was so successful in football was because I stayed true to this challenge.”
No matter what the goal, Mellott told the sixth graders that they have be strong.
“There will be days where you want to give up on your goals and follow a different path,” Mellott said. “There will be days that is seems like it is thundering and raining on you and you want to quit. Just remember, the only way plants grow is by rain. You may lose a few friends, but I can assure you that void will be replaced by a much better person.”
With that, Mellott wished the graduates luck, told them how proud he was of them and said that he will always be there to support them.
Mellott was part of 102 varsity touchdowns in his career at Butte High. That letter might have been his most impressive score to date.
To that, we should all raise our Gatorades.
— Bill Foley, who has been living Mariah’s Challenge for 12 and a half years, writes a column that usually appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. He plans to write more frequently during the coronavirus lockdown. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.2 comments