Brady Tippett knows what it’s like to look up to a Butte Central Maroon.
Eleven years ago, the Butte Central quarterback watched from afar as his brother, Craig, starred as a running back for the Maroons.
“I went to everyone of his games,” Brady says. “I remember the Stevensville game when they came back and beat them in overtime. I was just a little kid back then and I remember telling myself, ‘I want to be a Maroons football player.'”
So, Brady knows what his younger brother, Payton, is likely thinking as he watches his hero throw passes for the Maroons.
Payton, 12, was born with Downs Syndrome.
“People look at him, stare at him, make fun of him,” Brady says. “It doesn’t bother me because people don’t know how special those kind of kids are.
“He’s a fun kid to be around. We’ll play catch in the back yard. Me and my dad bring him to the KC to shoot with us all the time. He watches WWE, the wrestling. After that he’ll come up to me and want to wrestle.”
Payton also likes to watch his brother play football, and Brady knows he has no bigger fan than his little brother.
In 2001, it was Brady Tippett who was his big brother’s No. 1 fan.
He remembers well when he was 7 years old and he watched his brother and the No. 1-ranked Maroons play Lewistown in the semifinals of the Class A State playoffs. BC lost 20-12 to the No. 2 Eagles, ending their season at 9-1.
“I watched the Lewistown playoff game when they lost, and I remember telling myself I want to get to where he was,” Brady says. “Last year when we lost and we didn’t get to the playoffs. That’s one of the worst feelings. I want to have that feeling of being in the playoffs.”
The Maroons will lock up a playoff berth Friday night if they can beat winless Corvallis on the road.
BC is on the brink of that return trip to the playoff based largely on the play of Tippett, who didn’t exactly follow the footsteps of his big brother.
Craig was a bruising All-Conference fullback at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds as a senior. He was a post player on the basketball court and played tight end at Montana Tech.
Brady points out that his brother caught a touchdown pass in Tech’s win at Azusa Pacific in the 2005 playoffs.
Brady, who is a guard in basketball, is the 5-10, 180-pound quarterback of the Maroons.
“I’ve always wanted to be a quarterback,” Brady says. “My brother was a running back, but I’ve always been the quarterback type.”
He started playing the position in Little Guy football as a fourth grader. After two years playing defensive end and tight end during junior high Tippett moved back to quarterback his freshman year.
“I was one of the bigger guys on the team, so I moved to D-end,” Tippett says with a laugh. “We had three quarterbacks, me Jack (Gallagher) and Riley (McNabb). They just thought Riley knew it better than me, so they moved me.”
Gallagher ended up playing golf at Butte Central, while McNabb is a key player for the Butte High soccer team.
Tippett, meanwhile, is making a case for post-season honors at quarterback while leading an up-and-down BC team that enters its final two games of the regular season with the arrow pointing straight up.
In seven games, Tippett has completed 57 percent of his passes (113 of 197) for 1,605 yards and 15 touchdowns.
In all, he’s had a hand in 23 touchdowns. Tippet has rushed for 337 yards on 83 carries. He’s scored eight touchdowns, including four in last week’s 52-29 key win over Hamilton.
“He’s had a good year,” says BC coach Don Peoples Jr. “He’s throwing the ball really well. He’s led a lot of scoring drives, and he’s been a good field general.”
Tippett has also thrown 15 interceptions. He’s thrown at least one pick in each BC game.
That, however, is a stat that probably shows how much Tippett has grown since his first year as a starter last season. He’s learned to shake off a mistake.
“Last year when things were going wrong I’d kind of get down on myself,” Tippett says. “This year I think that’s my best improvement. I stay focused.”
“That was our team last year,” Peoples adds of last year’s BC squad that was easily the youngest in his 24 years leading the Maroons.
This year, Peoples says the growth in his quarterback mirrors the growth of the Maroons.
“He’s got another year under his belt and he’s playing like a senior,” Peoples says.
This season has been all about the rebound for the Maroons. Their biggest rebound came after a the team blew a 27-0 lead to Anaconda, losing 28-27 at home three weeks ago.
“That was the worst, worst loss I ever had,” Tippett says. “And that was homecoming. I couldn’t believe it. It felt like a dream, kid of. It happened so fast.”
The next week, the Maroons went on the road and beat Stevensville 31-13. The Yellowjackets were ranked No. 5 in the state the week before.
“Most teams would have gave up and said their season’s done,” Tippett says of the devastating loss to the team’s biggest rival. “That’s what I’m most proud of this team, what we’ve done the past two weeks.”
The Maroons also learned a lesson from the loss in which they led 27-6 with 4 minutes left.
“We just kind of stopped playing,” Tippett says. “That’s been our theme the last two weeks — 48 minutes.”
Tippett is one of just five seniors on the Maroons. Joe and Frank Joyce, Northey Tretheway and Kolten Lamiaux are the others.
By comparison, the Class A defending champion Dillon Beavers have 21 seniors. They had a huge senior class last year, too, while BC only had two seniors.
“There’s a lot of burden on those senior classes, and these kids have done a good job,” Peoples says. “I’m proud of these seniors and last year’s seniors.”
Even at Butte Central, where the enrollment is 145, it is unusual for the Maroons to have two small classes of football players back to back.
Two years ago, the Maroons had 18 seniors on the roster of a team that reached the state semifinals, and the Maroons are loaded with younger talent.
So, Tippett is one of five seniors who will be instrumental in the rebuilding process, but might not necessarily reap in the rewards.
“The senior class has worked hard all off season,” Tippett says. “Joey, me, Frankie, Kolten, Northey. All those guys have work hard.
“I think we’re getting the younger kids ready,” Tippett says. “They’re going to be really good next year.”
Tippett credits his big numbers to his teammates, pointing out the plethora of weapons he has at his disposal.
“The passing game has been really good, and that’s mostly credit to the line and the receivers,” Tippett says. “I have the easy job. I have Kale (Guldseth), Connor (McGree), Wyatt (Kingston), all those guys can catch the ball. We have some young ones too — Chad (Peterson), Dalton (Sessions) — they’re going to be good players when they get older.”
Tippett pauses, then points out that those players are pretty good already.
“Kale is getting really good. I think he’s going to be All-State this year, and he has one more year to get better,” Tippett says. “McGree, I think everybody knows about him. He just has that will to win.”
Tippett also has a strong will to win. He’s a feisty competitor on the football field and basketball court, and he admits that he’s sometimes let his temper get the best of him.
For instance, Tippett knocked over a garbage can with his helmet after throwing an interception against Billings Central. That didn’t sit well with the coaches.
“I just hate losing,” Tippett explains.
Tippett uses that hatred of the ‘L’ word to his advantage. A week after the garbage-can incident, he threw for 341 yards and four touchdown passes against Laurel.
He used it on the hard court as well.
Tippett started as a junior on Butte Central’s basketball team that lost a tough game to Stevensville in the semifinals of the divisional tournament in Dillon. That meant the Maroons ended a long string of appearances in the State tournament.
Tippett turned that fire in his belly into an offseason of working hard to get better.
“I told myself that I was going to be in the gym or weight room every day, and I was,” Tippett says of that loss. “My dad would take me or if he didn’t take me I’d go by myself and shoot.”
Basketball is Tippett’s first love when it comes to sports, and he says he is now looking forward to a successful senior season with the Maroons.
“I don’t see why we can’t beat anybody in basketball,” he says. “Marcus (Ferriter), he’ll be good for us. He’s going to be like Jake (Simkins) on defense, but he can score, too. Emmitt (McCarthy) is going to be really good. Kale, he’s always good. He’s not a big kid, but he’s got a big hart. He lifted hard in the offseason.”
Tippett credits his dad, Chris, for his basketball skills. That’s where he got his dedication to working year-round.
“He’s been a big help,” he says. “He’s the No. 1 guy who got me where I’m at in basketball.”
Of course, his dad isn’t the only Tippett to go to the gym of the Knights of Columbus with Brady.
Payton, who is always in a good mood, is usually there with the one athlete he looks up to more than anyone else.
Like all the Tippett boys — Zach Tippett, who is between Craig and Brady, played basketball at BC — Payton is a sports nut.
“He loves sports,” Brady says. “He loves football and he knows all the basketball stuff already. He can almost dribble. ”
One big reason he knows so much is because he has a Butte Central Maroon to look up to.
In this case, though, Payton also has a Maroon who looks back at him as an inspiration. He has a hero who never lost sight of what a Butte Central football player can mean to a young boy.
“He’s always there at every game, no matter if it’s cold, hot, everything,” Brady says. “He’s my No. 1 fan.”