ESPN’s SportsCenter mispronounced Tommy Mellott’s name Saturday night.
When playing the highlights of Montana State’s upset win at No. 1 Sam Houston State in the quarterfinals of the NCAA FCS Playoffs, one of the ESPN anchors called our Butte boy “Tommy Mell-it.”
The eyes still swelled up with tears of happiness, even with the mispronunciation. Our Butte boy led the Bobcats to a home semifinal game, and he just made SportsCenter.
Mellott, a 2020 Butte High graduate, lighting it up on ESPN+ was the biggest story in town Saturday night. That came as the Butte High Bulldogs advanced to the championship match of the Mining City Duals/Jim Street Classic wrestling tournament for the TVfirst time since 2003, too.
The freshman Bobcat quarterback was the biggest story in the state. Seven touchdowns in two playoff games, and MSU fans have completely forgotten that their Bobcats lost to Montana in Missoula on the final Saturday of the regular season.
The former Margaret Leary Mustang was one of the biggest sports stories in the country. That is because he just had a hand in five touchdowns as the Bobcats stopped Sam Houston State’s 22-game winning streak.
Mellott ran for two touchdowns, passed for two touchdowns and caught one more. That is why he is known as “Touchdown Tommy” in Bobcat Nation.
Actually, he is “Touchdown Tommy from Butte, America,” thanks to MSU star Troy Andersen.
That is the kind of thing that just has to bring a fuzzy feeling to the hearts of Butte Rats everywhere.
Right now, the world is starting to see something that we could have told you about a decade ago. That Mellott boy is something special.
We first noticed his name on May 5, 2012. That is the day that Tommy set the meet records in the fourth-grade boys’ 600- and 200-meter races at the Grade School Track Meet on the Charlie Merrifield Track, which is inside the sports complex named after Tommy’s late grandfather Gene Fogarty.
Two years later, he set the sixth-grade boys’ 600-meter record, and all three records stand.
Mellott went on to be a star at East Middle School before becoming perhaps the greatest Bulldog of all time at Butte High.
Before he graduated as a valedictorian in June of 2020, Mellott earned 12 varsity letters at Butte High. He lettered four times in track, basketball and, of course, football.
Tommy is the all-time leading rusher at Butte High. He is the No. 2 passer in yardage and touchdowns, taking a back seat only to the great Dallas Cook.
He ran for 31 touchdowns at Butte High. He passed for another 71. He led the Bulldogs to the Class AA State championship football game in November of 2019.
As great as Mellott has always been on the field, track and court, however, he is even better off them.
Just look at his Twitter profile. It is not full of self-promotion or gloating.
Rather, most of Tommy’s tweets are passing along the accomplishments of his teammates, classmates and friends. He is as humble as he is exciting.
When he signed with the Bobcats officially two years ago this week, Mellott made sure the signing ceremony was not just about him.
Instead, he made it about the three dozen or so teammates who were there to cheer him on during the early-morning signing ceremony. He made it about the teammates who were not there.
“None of this would be really possible without those guys,” Mellott said at the time. “Everyone gets to see what we do on Friday nights, but they don’t get to see the hours and the summers that we workout together throughout the year. This morning we’ve already got our workout in. All year long we do this sort of thing, so without those guys pushing me and me pushing them we wouldn’t be here right now.”
Butte High football and track coach Arie Grey was nearly in tears that Wednesday morning.
“I’m so proud of him,” the coach said of Tommy. “The work ethic he has and the time and effort he’s put in to get to this point, it’s pretty special. You saw that with the kids in the program coming because they love him.”
When Tommy committed to the Bobcats, they told him they did not know where they would play him. Instead of giving him a position, they listed him as an “athlete.”
That is because Tommy has the speed to play receiver, and he would probably be an All-American at safety.
Those of us who watched Mellott play football, though, laughed at the Bobcat indecision. We knew where he would be.
“They better put him at quarterback,” Butte coaching legend Jim Street said. “That kid just has it. He’s like Tom Brady.”
By the time the Bulldogs started the football playoffs in November of 2019, Tommy had already been asked to be the sixth-grade graduation speaker for two different schools in Butte.
When graduations were called off because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tommy penned a heartfelt letter to the Margaret Leary graduation class.
While all of the graduates idolized the great Tommy Mellott, he instead told the boys and girls what he was proud of them. He encouraged the graduates to make the most of every opportunity as they moved into middle school and then high school.
“You will always have your friends from Margaret Leary but do not be nervous to find new friends as well,” Tommy wrote. “Join the robotics club, join the cross-country team, join the choir, join the band. These are all great opportunities to be around great people and have fun. Everyone is unique and has different skills. Be proud of your skills because you all are amazing in your own way and do not let anyone tell you differently.”
Tommy was selected to play in the 2020 Montana East-West Shrine Game. On the very day he learned the game was canceled because of the pandemic, Tommy started scheming for a way to raise money for the patients at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane.
That, after all, was the reason they play the game in the first place.
With Mellott leading the way, the Butte players and cheerleaders selected for the game (and their parents) put on a cornhole tournament that raised nearly $55,000 for the hospital.
If you ask any of the other Butte players who helped out, they will tell you that it would not have happened without Tommy.
In Butte, we have known Tommy was something truly special for a long, long time. He keeps proving us correct over and over at an alarming rate.
He is almost too good to be true.
Now Bobcat Nation is starting to see some of what we have seen. Tommy has started exactly two games at quarterback, and now MSU fans are dreaming about their first national championship since 1984.
They are also beaming with the excitement that comes with knowing that they still have three more years of “Touchdown Tommy from Butte, America.”
Who knows how much longer we will have to watch him after that? As Coach Street says, that kid just has it. Never bet against him.
It will just be a matter of time before the SportsCenter anchors know how to pronounce his name.
— Bill Foley, who has mispronounced more than his share of names, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 2 comments