Shrine game a final audition for Wyatt Kingston

For about as long as he can remember, Wyatt Kingston has wanted to play football for the University of Montana.

“I was about eight years old and we were under the ‘Got Milk?’ sign,” Kingston remembers about his first trip to Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula. “I remember looking down and I told my mom, ‘I’m going to go to school here.'”

For the 2014 Butte Central graduate, though, there was one major problem when it came to his goal of playing college football. He hardly got recruited.

That is a crazy thought for fans of the Maroons who watched Kingston rush for 1,177 yards and 16 touchdowns during his senior year.

Not only did Kingston not hear a word from the Grizzlies, he never even got a scholarship offer from Montana Tech or Montana Western. He had opportunities to walk on at both schools, but he held out in hopes of pursuing his dream at UM.

At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, maybe coaches thought the running back and key defensive player was too small?

Kingston, who is practicing with the West team at Montana Tech for Saturday’s Montana East-West Shrine Game in Laurel, says it was more likely a lack of exposure.

“I think maybe it was because it was my senior year that I broke out,” Kingston said. “I didn’t play running back my junior year. I didn’t have those two good years that they were scouting.”

Kingston resigned himself to the fact that he wasn’t going to play college football and enrolled at Montana Tech as a student only. Not wanting to experience a lifetime of regret, though, Kingston had a late change of heart.

“I was going to go to Tech, and I didn’t really have to pay for much,” Kingston said. “Then on the last second, about three or four weeks ago, I was like ‘I got to go to Missoula.”’

So Kingston, who graduated with a 3.92 GPA and will study radiology or nursing, switch gears and enrolled at UM.

“I lost a few scholarships I could have applied for because I was going to go to Tech.,” Kingston said. “I was kind of bummed out because nothing was really going on. I was like, ‘I guess it’s just not going to happen.’

“I started lifting really hard and working out for the Shrine Game,” Kingston said. “I talked to my cousins and parents and they just told me it’s worth a shot, you’ve got nothing to lose. If you make the team, you make the team. If you don’t, you don’t. You’ve got nothing to lose so you might as well give it your best shot.”

Kingston sent a highlight tape to the Grizzly coaching staff, and Butte Central head coach Don Peoples Jr. sent off a letter. Kingston is waiting — and hoping — he’ll hear something back.

“We’re going to hopefully get a call back soon,” Kingston said.

Kingston is also hoping the Shrine Game will push him over the top to get him a Grizzly uniform when preseason camp opens next month in Missoula.

“That’s what I’m hoping,” Kingston said. “Hopefully I’ll have a good game, a solid game, and they can see it.”

He’ll line up at running back and in the slot for the Westside. That might be the kind of versatility that will open some eyes in his final game to garner some attention.

Kingston played running back from Little Guy football through eighth grade. He moved to receiver as a freshman, and he posted 59 varsity receptions for six touchdowns. He switched back to his favorite position as a senior and really took off. He earned All-State honors and was named offensive co-MVP of the Southwestern A.

“I played X, then I played H and played running back,” Kingston said. “On defense I played linebacker and strong safety. So, I have a little bit of versatility.”

Kingston says his vision on the field is probably his strength.

“I think so,” he said. “That and my first three steps off the ball to get me into the open are pretty quick.”

Even though he was only a running back for one season, Kingston ranks seventh all time rushing for the Maroons He trails only Brian Morris, Buddy Walsh, Don Ueland, Matt Ueland, Don Ueland and Seth Schutte. He ranks in the top 10 for most TDs in one season with 17.

Kingston, who also chalked up four interceptions last season, is one of those few players who actually seems to be faster when he dons football pads. He’s not going to post a 4.2 40, but he has the kind of speed to run away from defenders.

“For track I run the 100 and it seems like not too fast,” Kingston said. “On the field, when I have pads on, I feel a lot faster, stronger and quicker. It’s one of those things.”

That was evident when he busted an 85-yard run against Anaconda last season. In that game at Mitchell Stadium, Kingston ran for 272 yards. That ranks fifth best in school history behind Steve Schulte, Clint McGee, John Driscoll and Morris.

Those are the kind of numbers that you’d think would get you a chance to play at the next level.

For Kingston, though, it isn’t just about the next level. It’s about playing for the Grizzlies.

“Cool stadium, great fans,” Kingston said. “When we went down for our playoff game we got to practice down there (at Washington-Grizzly Stadium). There weren’t even any fans, and you just feel like you’re this small down on the field. It’s just an incredible feeling.”

Kingston would like to feel that feeling when every seat is filled with rabid Grizzly fans.

“Hopefully it works out,” he said. “I’m really hoping.”

Note: will profile all seven Butte players on the West roster before Saturday’s Montana East-West Shrine Game. Other Butte Westside players are Peter Granger, Dallas Cook and Johnny Walker from Butte High and Kale Guldseth, Connor McGree and Connor Schulte from Butte Central. 2 comments

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  • Sean O'Connor
    July 14, 2014, 2:44 am

    Montana could use a man like Wyatt.

  • Rick Sparks
    July 14, 2014, 8:33 am

    Good luck with all you are trying to do Wyatt. I have always told those who played for me, “If you don’t try it you will never know and then you spend a lifetime wonder if you could.” Get in touch with me if there is anything I can do to tohelp out while you are in Missoula. I live here now, and as long as am not breaking any NCAA rules I will do what I can to help you.


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