BILLINGS — The fourth annual induction ceremony and banquet for the Montana Football Hall of Fame is Saturday at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center at 6 p.m.
The 2019 inductees include Scott Gragg, Thatcher Szalay and Barry Darrow from the University of Montana; Jon Borchardt and Mike McLeod from Montana State; Paul Champlin from Eastern Montana College (now Montana State Billings); and Bob McCullough from Helena High and the University of Colorado.
MTFHOF board member Rick Halmes said organizers are expecting a crowd of 500-plus to gather at the banquet. There will be at least 17 inductees from the previous three classes in attendance.
“Seventeen of the inductees are coming back to help induct the new 11, that’s how much they value it,” Halmes said.
Gragg, an offensive lineman from Silverton, Oregon, played 172 NFL games over the course of 11 years with the Giants, 49ers and Jets. He was drafted by the Giants in the second round in 1995.
Whitefish's Szalay was an offensive lineman with the Bengals and Ravens in the 2000s, and Darrow, a Great Falls CMR grad, played tackle for the Browns in the 1970s.
Montana State football alums Borchardt, a lineman from Minneapolis, spent time in the NFL with the Bills and Seahawks; and Bozeman's McLeod, a defensive back, was with the Packers.
McLeod was a member of Montana State's 1976 national championship team.
McCullough, nicknamed "Spud," played four seasons on the offensive line with the Broncos in the 1960s, protecting quarterback Frank Tripucka.
Champlin, of Pittsburgh, was a top small-college quarterback at Eastern Montana and one of the first black QBs drafted into the NFL when the 49ers picked him in the 13th round in 1969.
Halmes, who played with Champlin at EMC, said “he’s a great role model. God Bless him. He and I have been friends ever since.”
According to Halmes, Champlin will receive quite a bit of support at the ceremony as “he has people coming from all over the country.”
With so many people wanting to congratulate Champlin on his induction, Halmes explained that the hall of fame board decided to host an open house for Champlin from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday in Parlor Room 1010 at the Billings Hotel. Friends, EMC alumni and former teammates are invited.
“He’s a good guy and great leader. He led by example,” said Halmes of Champlin.
Butte native and former Montana State and Colorado State head coach Sonny Lubick will be inducted in the support category. Lubick won 108 games at Colorado State from 1993-2007. The late Ken Staninger, a Missoula-based player agent, will also be inducted in the support category.
Legacy players to be honored include the late Milt Popovich, a Butte native and former Montana Grizzly standout who played for the Chicago Cardinals in the 1930s and '40s; and the late Ralph Scott — who played in the early days of the NFL in the 1920s, primarily with the Chicago Bears.
Scott came out of Hardin High School and was an All-American at the University of Wisconsin.
Doors for the banquet open at 5 p.m. Cost is $100 for an individual ticket and $800 for a table of eight. Tickets may be purchased at the Billings Universal Athletic store or by calling Halmes at 406-208-8142.
To be eligible for the hall, players had to attend a Montana high school, college or both and have signed a contract in the NFL or Canadian Football League, Halmes said.
Nomination forms for next year’s class will be made available at the banquet. The MTFHOF will accept nominations until May 31 for the Class of 2020.
For information, visit mtfootballhof.com or the Montana Football Hall of Fame Facebook page.