BILLINGS — That’s quite the sharp-dressed crew.
Welcome to the Montana Football Hall of Fame!
Maybe the blazers weren’t all quite the perfect fit, but all the recipients looked sharp after receiving them and were extremely proud and humbled at the Universal Athletic Blazer ceremony Saturday afternoon at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center.
“I was glad it fit,” joked Shane Collins, one of the nine inductees, before reflecting on the meaning of the award.
“It’s a true honor to be here and I’m proud of myself and these guys with me,” said Collins, 52, who played defensive end in the NFL for Washington for three seasons and is now a home builder in Bozeman.
After he received his blazer, sportscaster Brent Musburger — who went to elementary and middle school in Billings — said it was truly touching to be included in the HOF class.
“It felt great. I never expected it,” Musburger, 82, said of how it felt to have the jacket presented.
“First of all it’s shocking. I never expected it. It’s a delight to meet this group of athletes and the coaches and scouts. It’s great to come back home. That’s the most important, to have it here in Billings.”
Joining Collins and Musburger in the hall as part of the 2021 class were: Ken Amato, Dan Carpenter, Travis Lulay and Steve Okoniewski in the Players category; Bob Beers and Marty Mornhinweg in the Support category; and Victor Lindskog in the Legacy category. Collins was inducted as a player and Musburger was recognized in the support category.
All of the inductees left their mark on Montana football and beyond.
“Montana is the birthplace of my football career,” said Lulay, 37, who returned to Oregon and is a financial planner along with his brother and father.
Lulay, one of the best Bobcats of all-time, had a 10-year Canadian Football League career after his days as quarterback of the Cats came to a conclusion.
“It’s pretty darn humbling and a tremendous honor,” Lulay said. “Had I not made the decision to come to Montana State, who knows?”
Beers, who has been retired since 2016 and lives in Butte where he started coaching at Montana Tech and Butte Central, was a scout in the NFL for Denver, Detroit and Houston.
“I’m honored and humbled. It was a surprise,” Beers, 73, said.
The likeable Beers then joked, “I’m sure they felt they got a different guy.”
Mornhinweg, a four-year starting quarterback for Montana, has been head coach of the Detroit Lions and offensive coordinator of San Francisco, Philadelphia, the Jets, and Baltimore.
“What a great honor,” Mornhinweg, 59, said. “You look at all the other inductees, what a crazy talented group of men. Quarterbacks, broadcasters, a kicker in Dan Carpenter, and Okoniewski — are you kidding me, what a football name that is!
“Steve’s name was everywhere at UM, all over the place. And Brent, I suppose we all grew up listening to him.”
Mornhinweg said he is “semi-retired,” but occasionally does a podcast. He said now that he’s not coaching he has some free time for other things, such as playing in a Father’s Day best ball golf tournament with his wife Lindsay, daughter Molly and son Cade.
Carpenter played high school ball at Helena High, and after a college career at Montana, he played nine years in the NFL with Miami and Buffalo. Carpenter, 36, lives in Outlook on a ranch with his wife Kaela and two young children and raises cattle, sheep, horses and chickens.
He appreciated being a part of the fifth class to be inducted into the hall.
“It’s a true honor,” he said. “I don’t know how to put it and it’s definitely nothing I thought I’d be a part of. It’s amazing to look through and know the names and know you are inducted into something special.”
While he’s not involved in football at the moment, Carpenter said one day that may change.
“I’ve been asked to help coach a few times,” he said. “I know it will happen someday. I’m trying to focus my time with my kids and the sports they are in (baseball and barrel racing). Football isn’t an option with the age they are.”
After his days with the Griz, Okoniewski enjoyed a six-year NFL career as a defensive lineman with the Bills, Packers and Cardinals.
Now, 71, he lives in Green Bay. Originally from Washington, Okoniewski said many family members traveled to Billings for the ceremony.
“It’s good to see former teammates and see the honorees here,” he said. “It’s wonderful.”
Okoniewski said being a part of the Montana Football Hall of Fame is comparable to the “brotherhood” he feels with former NFL players.
“There is a feeling if you were in the NFL and played in the NFL you are part of a brotherhood,” he said.
Amato, 44, a former Bobcat, was a long snapper for the Tennessee Titans for nine seasons.
“It’s a great honor and a humbling experience,” said Amato, who lives in Nashville. “It’s an amazing opportunity and I’m thankful and very grateful for it.”
The entire weekend of festivities was a pleasure, said Amato, who added he’s been fascinated reading and learning about all of the prior inductees into the hall, with a physical location at the UAS store in Bozeman. The inaugural class was in 2016.
“This is great. It’s awesome and an honor and it’s great to meet all the inductees and read about them and listen to the former inductees,” he said. “I’ve gone on the website and read the bios and looked at the years and it’s been a great experience.”
Amato, who coached with the Dallas Cowboys for three years and also at Vanderbilt and Limestone College (South Carolina), helped with the Leaders, Legends and Legacies football camp in Ekalaka June 23-25.
“I just came back,” he said. “One of my former teammates from Montana State (Ty O’Connor) puts on a camp, Leaders, Legends and Legacies. … It’s a camp, but it’s more of a retreat. We teach football and life skills.”
Lindskog, who passed away in 2003 at age 88, was represented by his son, Stan Lindskog.
Lindskog, who like Collins was born in Roundup, attended Stanford, and had an eight-year career as a center and linebacker with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Stan said his father would be very happy with the induction and in awe to be in the company of the other inductees.
“They are truly gifted guys, each in their own position, and time frame,” Stan Lindskog said. “They are the best of the best.”
While the class of 2021 looked sharp in their new blazers Saturday, they were all ecstatic about what the new jacket meant — and rightfully so.
“I feel like I’m in a pretty small fraternity,” said Collins. “I’m proud to be a part of it.”