“But dad,” my daughter said, “I thought you said that Peoples guy was the one who could play in the NFL someday.”
“I did. Danny Peoples might kick in the NFL someday. Marcus Ferriter could possibly play in the NFL, too. So could Dalton Daum. So could a lot of these guys.”
That short exchange came while leaving a West team practice last week for the Montana East-West Shrine Game at Montana Tech.
The team practiced in Butte all week, and the talent was off the charts. The ability of the six Butte players in the game alone was eye popping.
Peoples (Montana), Ferriter (Montana State), Daum (Montana), Chad Peterson (Montana Western), Kaemen Richards (Montana Western) and Clay Dean (Montana Tech) are all going on to play college football.
All will eventually play prominent roles for their team, and all six are absolute steals for the teams that landed them.
Seriously, how many times has Notre Dame had a freshman kicker with a leg like Peoples? Daum has run a 10.66 second 100-meter dash and he catches everything thrown his way.
Ferriter was the most dominant high school player I saw last season, and I have no doubt Peterson, Richards and Dean could play in the Big Sky Conference.
Actually, the West Shrine roster could make up the nucleus of a pretty good Big Sky Conference team someday. The East too.
That’s why I took my son and daughters with me when I attended a practice last week. Look around, I told them. Remember some of these names and faces because you’ll hear them and see them again.
Hopefully my boy, who is 7, will remember the day that he played catch on the Bob Green Field with Josh Sandry of Bigfork. He is a safety who is going to play for the Grizzlies with Peoples and Daum.
You don’t have to be a football coach to know that Sandry is the real deal. All you have to do is watch him. The Shrine coaches, however, freely offered up just how incredible he is up after every time he made a big-time play in camp.
I bet the boy will remember the time when his sister mocked him for crying because she got sunscreen in his eyes. That near fight ended when Peoples shared with him a story of the time he was on the front page of The Spokesman Review during Hoopfest crying his eyes out because of the same problem.
Little things like that leave a lasting impression. Even if the kids don’t remember them, they will definitely leave a mark and hopefully help point them in the right direction in life.
In the Kim Kardashian world, which has a severe lack of role models, the youth of Butte and the surrounding area have it pretty good.
Whether it’s Olympians like Brad and Bryon Wilson, NFL player Colt Anderson or the Mariah’s Challenge Scholarship winners, there is no shortage of people to look up to.
It only gets better for one week every summer when the West team for the Shrine Game comes to town to get ready for the big game.
That those guys were wide eyed when Anderson showed up at a practice to give them a talk about the importance of and the meaning of playing in the Shrine Game shows us just how good our kids have it.
The Butte guys get to see Anderson all the time, whether he’s working out with the Bulldogs at Butte High School or attending local sporting events while in town during the Indianapolis Colts off season.
Of course if you ask the players on the West team who their newest heroes are, you probably wouldn’t hear them talk about Anderson. Instead, most would tell you Sudah Davis and Tucker Thatcher.
Sudah is a 13-year-old Butte girl who can do anything you can do, only better, despite using the two prosthetic legs she got from the Shrines Hospital.
She is such an inspiration that when Gordon Voit recently did a story on Sudah for KXLF, at least 46 CBS affiliates, including the one in Washington, D.C., and two international cable stations picked it up.
Tucker starts on the Butte High basketball team despite being a life-long Shriners Hospital patient for a hip injury.
Sudah and Tucker both addressed the West team before they take the practice field, demonstrating the reason the game is held in the first place. Tucker has been doing it for years.
When you talk to each player on the team and ask them about their inspiration for playing they will, to a man, tell you about the speeches of Sudah and Tucker.
This year, the players learned that Tucker will play football for the Bulldogs for the first time. He’ll be a senior.
The kind of courage it takes for him to not only talk his doctors into letting him play football but to go out for the team for the first time as a senior sends chills down the spines of even the best and most courageous athletes in the state.
I can’t wait until next July when the West team comes to town to prepare for the 70th Montana East-West Shrine Game, which will be played in Butte.
I’m going to tell my kids to make sure they remember that former Butte High Bulldog named Tucker Thatcher as they attend practices with me.
“Is he going to play in the NFL?” They might ask.
“No,” I’ll say. “Tucker Thatcher will probably never play football in the National Football League. But he might be the president.”