FRISCO, Texas — About two years after graduating from Montana State, Morgan Harris started his own company.
Montana State football:
Based in his home state of Washington, Mercurys Coffee Co. celebrated 23 years of business in December. Over the years, travel expenses and myriad large purchases for the coffee chain have gone on an Alaska Airlines credit card, resulting in the accumulation of 4 million airline miles.
The miles have especially come in handy over the last few weeks as Harris helped arrange travel for a dozen or so former MSU football teammates and close friends to the FCS national championship game. The Bobcats, for whom Harris was a linebacker from 1992-96, lost to North Dakota State 38-10 on Saturday at Toyota Stadium in the program’s first title game appearance since 1984.
Bobcats from the past three decades turned out in droves to support the 2021 team on its quest for the school’s fourth championship.
“It feels rewarding, even if we’re not the ones playing, it’s amazing to see what these kids have been able to do,” Harris said Wednesday.
For a handful of players from the 1990s, the notion of school pride and wanting to be in the presence of something special was a motivating factor for being in attendance at the game. Those teams in the ‘90s also didn’t enjoy the same amount of success as recent teams have. They wanted to be present for this year’s Bobcats during their moment on the national stage.
“It’s really neat to be able to support these guys and get to watch them create that moment,” said Scott Matthews, a former Academic All-American and a safety from 1992-96 who now lives near Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Chad Mayer, a Bozeman High graduate and a Bobcats quarterback and tight end from 1992-96, struck a similar chord.
“I think when you’ve played, you understand and respect what these guys have gone through,” said Mayer, an All-Big Sky tight end in 1996.
Players from the past used the weekend in Frisco to hold reunions with teammates they hadn’t seen or spoken to for many years.
Omar Turner, a defensive back from 1993-96, knew of at least 50 players who were in town for the game. He hosted a few out-of-town former teammates at his home in the Dallas area, where he currently works in digital media marketing.
Turner, an All-Big Sky selection in 1995, said the FCS championship game became an important outing for former players so they could see what has become of the program they gave so much to.
“From where we were to what we see today, it’s fun, man,” Turner said. “Not just the football itself, but the new accommodations with the stadium and the locker room. It’s cool to see the maturity of the program.”
Turner’s confidence in MSU grew exponentially on Dec. 11, when the team knocked off top-ranked Sam Houston on the road in the FCS quarterfinals.
“Having that experience and winning in that environment has totally set them up for success,” he said.
A tailgate for Bobcat fans and former players was well-attended Saturday morning.
Hannah Scott estimates she only saw three MSU home football games in her entire time as a Bobcats volleyball player. She wrapped up her playing career this fall but is still working toward a master’s degree. She currently works in the athletic department’s academic center. Scott and her colleagues were tasked with distributing blue and gold pom-poms to fans at the tailgate.
“We’re just doing our part to hand them out to get the school spirit going in the stadium,” she said. “As a former student-athlete, it means a lot to be here. To see the turnout we have with all the Bobcats here, it’s awesome.”
Teresa Wehr, mother of redshirt freshman defensive lineman Marcus Wehr, wore a button with a picture of her and her son around her neck, modest jewelry somewhat akin to a Christmas tree ornament. She and other family members made dozens of them for the occasion.
“Once in a lifetime,” she said, describing the excitement of the day. “I get a little choked up talking about it. Just excited for the kids and the team.”
In the week leading up to the game, MSU alumni reflected on the season and what aspects of the team gave them confidence for Saturday.
“Watching them play, it looks like they’re playing for each other,” Mayer said.
The recent ascent of freshman quarterback Tommy Mellott was also a common theme. Harris called him “outstanding.” Matthews said Mellott has provided the “magic that is required to win championships.”
“Defensively, it looked like they were kind of carrying the stick for the majority of the season,” Turner added, “but now the offense has really started to score points in droves and keep the ball.”
Mellott exited Saturday’s contest early with an injury, however, and he did not return. Backup Tucker Rovig completed 13 of 28 passes for 156 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Regardless of the outcome of the game, Mayer hoped earlier in the week this year’s players recognized the immense accomplishment of even reaching the championship game.
“I hope they cherish it,” he said, “and think about what it’s taken to get to this spot because it’s pretty cool.”