Editor's note: This is the third of a five-part series focusing on some of the most recent inductees into the Montana Football Hall of Fame. Part IV will feature Tim Hauck.
Bill Kollar was a bit of a stranger the first time he came to Montana.
The Warren, Ohio, native came to Bozeman as a defensive lineman on the Montana State football team. He was one of the few who wasn't originally from Montana.
"In fact, back then most of the guys on the team were from Montana," Kollar said Saturday before his induction into Montana's Football Hall of Fame.
"I know it's quite a bit different now than it was before but it was great to get out here and see the camaraderie and stuff that the team had."
Even though he wasn't a Montanan, Kollar quickly became one.
"It was definitely different, but they really brought you into the fold right off the bat," he said. "And that's usually how football teams are. The base was mainly Montana kids, but that didn't end up mattering. You were part of the Bobcat family now."
Kollar would go on to become a two-time Little All-American (all levels except NCAA Division I), a three-time All-Big Sky Conference selection and win the Senior Bowl MVP award in 1974. His jersey, No. 77, has been retired by Montana State.
Now a Denver Broncos defensive line coach, Kollar called his induction a "privilege."
"I couldn't have been happier when they called me up and told me and I was really jacked up to come and meet some of the other guys that are going into it," he said.
Kollar remembers his playing days well in Bozeman, most notable the rivalry with the Montana Grizzlies.
"The big rivalry that we had against the Grizzlies every year always turns out to be a big thing," he said. "Just really enjoyed the guys and the coaches. The whole thing was really a special situation."
Kollar was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1974 with the 23rd pick of the first round. He would go on to play for nine seasons, three in Cincinnati and six in Tampa Bay, missing the final season due to a knee injury.
Now he's heading into his 29th year as an NFL coach, beginning in Tampa Bay in 1984. He worked with the Atlanta Falcons from 1990-2000, the St. Louis Rams from 2001-2005, and the Buffalo Bills from 2006-2008.
Most notably, Kollar was defensive line coach for the Houston Texans from 2009-2014, where he helped mold J.J. Watt into a star. Watt won two Defensive Player of the Year awards under Kollar.
"I've coached some really good players over the years," Kollar said. "Having (J.J.) Watt his first four years in the league was really something else."
Having been in Denver since 2015, Kollar now coaches star linebacker Von Miller, though only on third down. The Super Bowl 50 MVP lines up as an outside linebacker on first and second down.
"He's obviously just like J.J., a special talent," Kollar said. "Guys like that don't come around very often and it's really been a privilege."
While playing at Montana State, Kollar said he'd never imagined that his career would cross paths with so many stars and last as long as it has in the NFL.
"Something like that, you never really expect that," he said. "When you're playing, you're hoping that some day you might end up being a professional football player. You're always hoping that you can, but you never know for sure, and when it turned out that way, obviously it was great."
After his playing career, Kollar returned to Bozeman to finish his degree. Soon after, Tampa Bay coach John McKay asked if he'd like to return as a coach.
"Like a dream come true," Kollar described it.
In his first year, Kollar coached the special teams and helped with the defensive line. McKay departed after the season. Kollar went to the University of Illinois for three seasons and Purdue University for two years before returning to the NFL with the Falcons.
Kollar has both coached and been around a multitude of NFL stars, including Watt, Miller, Deion Sanders, Clay Matthews Jr., Mario Williams, Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk. Kollar's first season in Denver was Peyton Manning's last, when the Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
For him, the journey couldn't have been better.
And his days at Montana State turned out to kick-start that successful career.
"We had a rough start there and the team really came on, winning the Big Sky in 1972," he said. "Had great teammates and great camaraderie and stuff. And it was a springboard for me."