In 1980 or 1981, my older brother received a Butte Central No. 10 football jersey for his birthday.
The jersey was No. 10 because my brother, at age 9 or 10, was a big fan of Don Peoples Jr., the starting quarterback for the Maroons. It was probably more because they had the same first name than it was for Peoples’ passing stats, but the jersey meant the world to my brother.
So I wouldn’t be left out, I got a No. 92 BC jersey the same day. It wasn’t because I had any special connection to a player with No. 92, if there even was one.
My mom picked No. 92 because I was supposed to graduate from high school in 1992. I would have, too, if third grade wasn’t so ridiculously hard.
Recently, I was reminded of those jerseys while on the sideline of a Butte High football game.
I saw Butte High junior Kobe Moreno wearing his No. 25 jersey, and I joked, “You know, No. 25 should be retired for Bunney. Take that off.”
That was in reference to the great Zach Bunney, who fought his way past leukemia to help lead the Bulldogs to their first state title in 21 years back in 2012.
“I’m good with that,” Moreno said. “Bunney is the reason I play running back.”
It turns out that Moreno was paying attention to Bunney’s heroics back in the days when he electrified Naranche Stadium and then Alumni Coliseum as a Montana Tech Oredigger.
“He’s the first running back I ever watched,” Moreno said.
Moreno didn’t watch football on TV so much. So while some kids grew up wearing the jersey of their favorite NFL players, Moreno idolized a true Butte High hero.
Bunney becoming an assistant coach for the Bulldogs last year only reaffirmed Moreno’s decision in position and number.
“He’s been so good to us,” Moreno said of Bunney the coach.
Hopefully Moreno wasn’t alone. Hopefully more kids paid attention to Bunney on and off the field. Hopefully there are more kids looking up to current Bulldogs and Maroons like Moreno did with Bunney.
When I was the age Moreno was when he watched Bunney wear purple, I thought Marc Murphy, Tom Kenney, John Sullivan and Mickey Tuttle walked on water. Those guys could do no wrong in my eyes. They were the equivalent of Bird, McHale and Parrish.
I still think Kenney might walk on water.
I know Mick does.
Instead of spending all that money for Odell Beckham Jr. jerseys, it would be great to see more kids wearing Butte High No. 2 (Tommy Mellott), 5 (Calvin Snow), 18 (Quinn Sullivan), 21 (Josh Neil). 37 (Carl Anderson) or 90 (Rylan Waananen). Or Butte Central No. 4 (Thomas McGree), 7 (Clay Fisher), 8 (Matt Simkins), 15 (Cade Holter) or 54 (Aaron Richards).
Or how about Montana Tech jerseys. Nos. 47 (Connor Wines), 28 (Jed Fike) or, of course, 81 (Dion Williams) would be perfect.
You don’t have to scroll too far down either of the three football rosters to find a perfect role model and inspiration. You can also check out the soccer, volleyball or any other rosters. Those would each beat the heck out of an NFL jersey.
There is certainly no way to beat Nos. 9, 11 or 30 on the Butte High volleyball roster. All three numbers belong to Brittney Tierney. You could also check out any of the numbers she wears in basketball. Last year she wore No. 52 to honor her dad. She will honor her mom with a different number this next basketball season.
During the first home weekend of the volleyball season, Butte High coaches got on the young subvarsity players for not cheering loud enough and not paying enough attention to the varsity match.
This is, after all, the age of the “smart phone,” which has the heads of teenagers — and a whole lot of adults — constantly looking down. So, the young players probably didn’t even know how they were supposed to act while in the stands.
When the Bulldogs played again the next day, the same coaches noticed Tierney, a senior, sitting in the cheering section to root on the subvarsity Bulldog teams.
Coaches asked her about it, and she replied something along the lines of, “How can I expect them to watch me play if I don’t watch them?”
That is the kind of teammate you want to be.
Moreno is the kind of teammate you want to be, too.
Seven years after Bunney missed all but a couple of memorable plays during his junior, Moreno is going to have to take a page out of his hero’s playbook.
The Moreno twin distinguishable only by the braces in his teeth, suffered a torn ACL early in Butte High’s season-opening football game. The injury will also erase his junior wrestling season, and he was a bona fide contender for a state title on the mats.
Like Bunney, Moreno has an amazingly positive attitude while confronting the horrible news and a long road ahead. Moreno reacted to the torn ACL like most people might react to a paper cut.
After a few minutes sitting on the bench, Moreno got on the stationary bike on the sideline. Then he walked around and did some exercises and stretches as if he was trying to go back in the game.
When the trainers ruled him out, he swore he’d be on the field the next week. Moreno even went to practice the following Monday, expecting to fight through the pain. That’s when they realized the injury was worse than previously thought.
After the news was confirmed by a surgeon, Moreno kept his chin up.
“I’ll be back,” he told his coach, choosing the words of the The Terminator. You better believe he will. There’s no doubt about it.
Kobe Moreno will be back, and he will probably be back better than ever.
The smart money is on him having a huge season for the Bulldogs next season.
The even smarter money would be buying a No. 25 Butte High jersey for your son or daughter who is hopefully paying attention.
— Bill Foley, who passed the third grade with flying colors the second time around, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. Check out his NFL picks on Thursdays.