One night late in the year 2005, I was the lone worker on the sports desk at The Montana Standard.
That meant I had to do the page layout, write a couple of short stories and handle any calls that came in.
One call I was certainly not expecting.
“Hello, my name is Mike Person,” the voice on the other end of the phone said. “I am from Glendive, and I want you to know that I am verbally committing to play football at Montana State.”
This was back before players made that announcement on Twitter. When coaches got a player to commit, they told the player to call their newspaper.
Since I never watched the Glendive Red Devils that season, I did not know Mike Person. I had never even heard his name before.
Glendive is about 450 miles down Interstate 90 from Butte, so I was also curious as to why Mike was breaking this news to me.
“Congratulations,” I said. “That is great. Good for you.”
Then I said the only thing that was on my mind.
“Why in the heck are you telling me?”
That is when I got to know a little bit about Mike Person.
He was calling the Standard because he wanted the people of Butte to be among the first to know the big news.
Person, you see, has deep roots in the Mining City, and he was certainly proud to say that.
His father, Jim, was a star offensive lineman at Montana Tech, where he played from 1969-1973. He was an NAIA All-American and Kodak All-American in 1973.
Jim Person, who had a short career playing for the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League, is a member of the Digger Athletic Association Hall of Fame.
Mike Person’s mother is the late Shelley (Lowney) Person, who passed a way a couple of years after Mike picked the Bobcats over the University of Wyoming.
Shelley graduated from Butte Central in 1973.
While talking to Mike for a little bit, I started to get the idea that the Bobcats were getting themselves one heck of a player.
He was very humble, so it took some work to get the information that the 6-foot-5 Person earned All-State honors on offense his junior and senior seasons.
It was harder to get out the fact that he started for three years at Glendive in football, and he was pretty good in basketball and track, too. As a junior, Person won the Class A State title in the discus with a throw of 163 feet, 2 inches.
He defended that title the following May with a mark of 158-5. He also placed sixth in the shot put as a senior.
As it turned out, I knew Mike’s sister, Sara (Person) Hauser, fairly well. She coached volleyball and served as activities director at Butte Central for a short time a few years before her brother moved to MSU.
Their brother, John, was coach football at Butte High under head coach Greg Salo at the time.
Fast forward to this Sunday, and Person will be playing in the Super Bowl. He will start at right guard for the San Francisco 49ers. The 299-pound Person will be wearing No. 68.
Person is part of a dominating offensive line that paved the way for 285 yards rushing against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
A lot of that credit goes to journeyman running back Raheem Mostert, who ran for 220 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries.
But did you see those holes? Any one of the 49ers cheerleaders could have averaged 4.5 yards per carry behind that dominating offensive line.
Person’s journey to the Super Bowl did not go just through the Packers.
It also went through the Colts, the Seahawks, the Rams, the Falcons, the Chiefs and the Colts again. Person made stops in all of those NFL cities before catching on with the 49ers and signing a nice contract after last season.
A ton of hard work and even more resiliency led Person to where he is today. You have to hand it to the man who keeps chasing his dream for so long.
Even if you root for the Chiefs, Packers, Seahawks or Rams, you have to admire a guy like Mike.
If you are from Glendive, Butte or anywhere in Montana, you should be especially proud of him.
His is a name we all should have known well over the last decade.
He was, after all, a captain for the Bobcats during his senior season. He started parts of four seasons with the Cats. This season, Person started 14 of 16 regular season games for the 49ers, missing two with a sore neck.
Now that he is going to the Super Bowl, Person is finally getting his just due.
He is even getting some national press because he has a great story. Person was cut three different times by teams that went on to play in the Super Bowl that season.
Person was planning on retiring before 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, who coached Person in Atlanta, talked him into going back to San Francisco for one last go around.
On Sunday, Person will become just the eighth Montana native to play in the Super Bowl, according to Greg Rachac of The Billings Gazette.
The only Butte guy to play in the Super Bowl was Pat Ogrin, who won a title with the 1982 Washington Redskins.
Of course, Person is darn near close enough to count as a Butte guy.
He certainly is to the 100 or so members of the Lowney family who will get together at a local establishment to watch Person and the 49ers take on the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.
Of course, Butte is never afraid to lay claim to someone with marginal ties to the city.
When “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine listed his birthplace as Butte before he beat Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell in UFC 76 in September of 2007, several people claimed to have attended grade school with him at West Elementary in Butte.
The thing is, Jardine never lived in Butte. Not even for a day.
He was born here on Halloween of 1975. His family made the drive from Philipsburg, where they briefly lived, to a Butte hospital.
Jardine liked the idea of hailing from the same hometown of Evel Knievel, but he had spent no time in the Holey City.
Super Bowl Sunday will be a much bigger deal for Butte than when Jardine beat Liddell in that split decision.
Make no mistake, Person belongs to Glendive, and that Eastern Montana town is certainly proud of him, as it should be.
But as I was so lucky to learn back in 2005, Person is also pretty darn proud of his Mining City roots.
That right there is good reason to be cheering for the 49ers on Sunday.
— Bill Foley, who attended Kennedy Elementary with Lucille Ball, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 2 comments