BILLINGS — Quietly and efficiently, Chris Stutzriem worked through the stack of papers next to him on the long table.
Like a celebrity working an autograph session, Stutzriem affixed his signature while carrying on a conversation with those in the room.
But Stutzriem is not a celebrity, not yet anyway, he is the new head coach of the Rocky Mountain College football team. And every paper signed represented another member of his first recruiting class.
The reigning Frontier Conference champions unveiled their 2019 recruiting class on late Wednesday morning.
The Battlin’ Bears signed 37 players from nine states – including 12 from Montana – to NAIA national letters of intent.
“Very excited,” said Stutzriem of his first class as head coach. “No. 1, they’re great people. They’re great students and all very athletic. All winners.”
It’s a different perspective for Stutzriem who was Rocky’s offensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017. “As a head coach, you have more investment to both sides of the ball,” he said.
“I also have a 70-30 rule,” Stutzriem continued. “That 70 percent of your team has to be made up of players from winning programs.”
The Battlin’ Bears lose 25 seniors from a team that won the Frontier Conference title for the first time since 1999 and advanced to the NAIA playoffs for the first time since 2013.
“We needed to get more athleticism through the whole team,” he said. “And kickers, we needed true kickers. On the offensive line we wanted to get more athletic and receiver-wise, to get a little more speed.
“We got quite a few linebackers (six) and we hit a home run with every linebacker we were after.”
Among the linebackers signed include Max Evenson of Billings Senior, Florence’s Spencer Jones and Riley Dickinson of Great Falls Central. Evenson is joined by high school teammate Gunner Hegg, who was a defensive lineman for the Broncs.
Rocky coaches also returned to eastern Idaho and Washington after the season to find players. “All the assistant coaches did a helluva job,” said Stutzriem.
The program also added offensive lineman Sawyer Mauthe and tight end Dalton Woodward from Powell, Wyoming.
The Battlin’ Bears replenished their receiving corps – they lose four from last season – with the signing of six for next season. They also added six offensive linemen.
Stutzriem was hired on Dec. 13, replacing Jason Petrino who resigned to become the defensive coordinator at Southern Illinois University. Stutzriem’s first official day was Dec. 17 and he wasted little time trying to find future players.
“I spent the whole first week recruiting. I probably averaged 40 phone calls a day,” Stutzriem said. “We had to go over our lists and see who was still available.”
Rocky’s first spring practice is scheduled for March 15 and the spring game is set for April 15. The Battlin’ Bears began winter conditioning on Jan. 10.
“There is never a day when you’re not recruiting,” said Stutzriem. “Now we clear the board and start tomorrow with the juniors.”