HELENA — Helena High football player Alex Johnson didn’t have much trouble factoring out of all of the variables when he chose to sign with Montana State.
Johnson, who started receiving interest from the Bobcats in his junior year, wasn’t sure if his dream to play for MSU would ever materialize because according to Johnson, their interest in him began to waiver.
“It was a little disappointing because I knew that I wanted to be (at MSU),” Johnson said. “I wanted to go and play for the Cats.”
Johnson’s initial disappointment was short lived as MSU's interest in Johnson regenerated. When Johnson got another call from the Bobcats, he didn’t hesitate to commit.
“They gave me a call and let me know they wanted to offer me a scholarship,” Johnson said. “I jumped (on the opportunity) as soon as possible, and I went for it.”
Johnson, who was named the Helena Independent Record Defensive Player of the Year, signed with teammate Holden Sampson. Both players chose to sign on the first day of the early national signing period on Wednesday afternoon at Helena High.
The recent success Montana State had under the direction of Bobcats coach Jeff Choate was a primary influence that factored into Johnson’s decision.
“Them being one of the best teams in the FCS is really great and super exciting to be a part of,” Johnson said. “They have just gotten better and better, and ever since coach Choate has improved the team and the winning tradition of that program.”
Johnson was one of four Bengals players to commit. Jacob Howell, who committed to Tech, and Zach Spiroff, who signed with Carroll, were two more.
All the players played crucial roles in allowing Helena to compete for a Class AA state football championship.
“You can’t measure what they did for us,” Helena coach Scott Evans said. “They were some of the best football players in the state of Montana. They gravitated toward people and situations that made themselves better, and these two guys did that.”
Sampson, like his teammate Johnson, was sold on MSU’s atmosphere.
“The coaches made you feel at home, and it was a great opportunity so I thought I might as well take it,” Sampson said. “I had offers from Western (Montana), Carroll and Rocky. Even the University of Mary offered me a scholarship but when I visited MSU, I was hooked.”
Sampson, who played predominantly as a tackle in his four-year career with the Bengals, was sold on Choate and his program.
“Coach Choate is a straight-to-the-point guy and I like that,” Sampson said. “He is down-to-the-point, and I think that fits me. I am looking forward to the opportunity.”
Helena Capital football player Riley Boese had to make a lot of adjustments transitioning from a Class B football program in Deer Lodge to a Class AA program with the Bruins.
Boese signed with his Bruins teammate Alaric Greil, who are both going to Montana Tech, on Wednesday afternoon as part of national signing day at Capital High.
“In Deer Lodge, I played a lot of positions, but when I came to Capital I mostly played linebacker," Boese said. "Now at Tech, we will see where we go from there.”
Boese generated some interest from other schools but decided on Tech because of its engineering program.
“I had interest from Western (Montana), and I looked at Rocky and Carroll, but the decision came down to I wanted to do engineering, and Tech has a great program for engineering," Boese said. "Once I come out of their program, I’ll be set for life.”
Boese, who wanted to play college football since he was a seventh grader, said he was sold after visiting Tech’s campus.
“I went down for a visit and liked a lot of the guys down there on my first visit,” Boese said. “They did an excellent job with their recruiting.”
Boese, who plans to redshirt his first season at Tech and play on the scout team, hopes to continue to improve in college on and off the field.
“Hopefully, I’ll find a job in Montana with the education I’ll get from Tech, and go from there,” Boese said.
Bruins coach Kyle Mihelish said he was able to make a quick transition when he transferred in.
“He picked everything up, and it was a joy coaching him," Mihelish said. "He was a huge asset to us defensively. One reason he was able to pick everything up so fast is that he was always in the meetings, weight rooms, and camp. He is the type of player that did everything we asked him to do.”
According to Montana Tech coach Chuck Morrell, both of these players schematically fit into what Tech is trying to do.
“We run a 3-4 defense and Alaric is a huge asset for us defensively,” Morrell said. “In the first two or three games we play next season, we are going to face mobile quarterbacks and to have a player with his type of mobility and athleticism is what you need to be successful in the Frontier League these days.”
Morrell said he was pleased with his current recruiting class as Tech was successfully able to get a multitude of players who were being looked at by both the NAIA and NCAA teams.
Greil was one of the players who choose Tech over playing at MSU.
“When I was deciding on where to play football, I wanted to play somewhere big and stay in the state,” Greil said. “I was looked at by the U of M and the Cats, but it only took one visit for me to decide where I needed to go.”
Morrell said these two players are part of one of their best recruiting classes in recent memory.
“We’ve had the opportunity to be one of the most successful programs in the Frontier League over the years, and that is because we are wasting no time trying to get recruits,” Morrell said. “There is no doubt (our team) has been relentless on the recruiting front. We try to be positive with our players and build a relationship with all of the talents across the state of Montana.”