Montana Tech’s Semansky primed for big senior season

Almost all of them know his name.

They know it well.

But most Montana Tech fans really have no clue who is Joe Semansky the football player.

The linebacker with deep Mining City roots is planning on changing that this season.

After a junior season that was basically lost to injury, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Semansky is healthy and ready to play a key role as the Orediggers look to turn the switch from rebuilding mode to a finished product.

“I feel good,” Semansky says. “I’m ready to go.”

Chuck Morrell is in his second year as Tech’s head coach, and the defensive-minded leader is expecting big things from his side of the ball.

“Our defense is looking really good,” Semansky says. “We’re definitely really far advanced as far as technique. That extra year and spring ball helped. Not only that, we had the summer where we had a lot of guys coming. A lot of guys didn’t miss more than four workouts during the summer.”

Under Morrell, the Orediggers run a complex 3-4 scheme. It’s a scheme that wasn’t fully implemented last season.

“Having that group of guys stay in the summer helps,” Semansky says. “We were getting technique down and just everybody getting past the little things. We’re able to focus more, playing on that edge, going and all out and just playing ball, man.”

Playing ball was something Semansky pretty much couldn’t do last season.

While he showed glimpses of greatness and drew praise from his coach when he was on the field, Semansky was limited to just a handful of games by a series of injuries.

“I had turf toe on both feet, mid-foot sprains on both feet, then a sprained ankle,” Semansky says. “The double turf toe was in practice. Somebody tackled me from behind, I got drug on my feet. The mid-foot sprains were during the games. It was just because I was playing with injuries. It puts stress on other parts of the body. The sprained ankle came during a game.”

Watching on the sidelines was tough for a player who helped his high school team in Highwood go 40-3 and win three 6-man state titles during his prep career.

“It was tough,” Semansky says. “It was tough to go through spring ball, work outs, summer work outs — not missing a workout, not missing anything — then having it all … oh well.”

Seeing Semansky on the sidelines was tough for Oredigger fans, too.

His last name alone is one that commands fear and respect for generations in Butte.

Semansky’s grandfather, Frank, was better known as “Monk.” That’s the same name most people know Joe Semansky’s father, John, by, too. He was a star on the Butte High football team back in his day.

Frank Semansky was the tough, no-nonsense vice principal and the dean of men at Butte High school.

“I still meet people today who are like, ‘Oh, you’re Semansky,” Joe Semansky says. “I had your grandpa as my principal.’ He was all about discipline. I think it goes back to his Navy days. Schools were different then.”

Joe’s grandmother, Joan Semansky, will be at the Oredigger games this season, along with his parents, John and Lisa, who live in Highwood.

Another Semansky who might find her way to the stands at Alumni Coliseum just might be the one signing autographs.

Joe’s younger sister, Rachel, is a standout basketball player for Montana State University. She is the biggest star in the Semansky family.

Rachel Semansky was the Bobcats’ second-leading scorer last year, averaging just under 14 points game. She also pulled down almost nine boards per game.

“No, probably not,” Joe Semansky answers with a laugh when asked if he’s the best athlete in his family. “I think she’s a better athlete.”

Joe Semansky watches his sister play as much as he can.

“She has games on the weekends,” he says. “I go over there (to Bozeman), watch her play and then hang out with the family.”

The upcoming season will be her fourth as a contributor for the Bobcats.

Joe Semansky, who will graduate in business management, is still looking forward to his first as a full-time player for the Orediggers.

“I think I got one game on special teams my freshman year, that was it,” Semansky says. “My sophomore year I played a little bit. Then my junior year I got plagued with injuries.”

Semansky is having a hard time grasping the fact that he’s a senior.

“It’s weird, but I embrace it and I look forward to helping out all the younger guys,” Semansky says. “I’m an open book for them. I want to help them out as much as I can and just be a great teammate.”

The Orediggers have a new look with new pads, new helmets and new uniforms for the 2012 campaign.

Semansky will also have a new number. He’s 33 this year. Last season he wore No. 46.

“I think I was 68, 62, 46 and now I’m 33. I picked this one,” says Semansky, who wore No. 3 in high school. “I just didn’t like 46, especially after that year. That was my first year in that.”

If 2012 is a good year from the Oredigger it will likely be because Oredigger fans get to know No. 33 as well as they do Semansky’s last name.