BOZEMAN — Talk to Jeff Choate about Montana State defensive end Marcus Ferriter and the superlatives start to run out pretty quick.
Durable. Smart. Consistent. Reliable. They’re all words Choate uses to describe Ferriter.
“I love him. Just a great kid,” said Choate, now in his fourth season as coach at MSU. “Awesome, awesome player for us. Probably one of the best guys in our locker room.”
Tough is another word that characterizes Ferriter. Or rather, Butte Tough — a moniker you don’t give to just anyone. A fourth-generation product of 127-year-old Central High School in the Mining City, Ferriter epitomizes what it means to work for everything you get.
Ferriter, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 265 pounds, said that mindset was rooted in him at a young age.
“I just grew up always hearing ‘Butte Tough,’ so it’s just like second nature to me,” Ferriter said. “I think it’s kind of ingrained in you. I think it comes from the stories of what the miners went through a century ago, just the culture of working 12- to 16-hour shifts down a mile deep. It was hard work.
“They did it for so long that the work they were doing was normal for them but for the average Joe it seemed like really tough work. It think it just ingrained this culture of how Butte people are just tough people. After the mine went down, Butte just stuck it out. It’s still a great city.”
Ferriter, an electrical engineering major, was recruited to play football at Montana State by previous coach Rob Ash and his staff. When Ash was let go at the end of the 2015 season, Ferriter didn’t flinch.
Instead, he embraced Choate’s vision for the program and has since become one of the Bobcats most valuable players in the rotation of a defensive line that has been perhaps the strongest position group on the team over the course of the past two seasons.
Ferriter is more than just a fill-in on a line that includes standouts like fellow defensive end Bryce Sterk and interior players Derek Marks, Chase Benson and Jason Scrempos.
“He’s a glue guy. And he’s playing a ton of football,” Choate said of Ferriter. “That guy started games for us our first year here (2016), and he’s kind of been that guy.
“Knock on wood, he’s never been out with injuries, he’s been so consistent in his toughness, and he’s really improved as a player. He’s not just a guy that’s going to give us downs. He can go out and make plays for us.”
For all the quality in-state talent Montana State has benefited from over the years, Butte hasn’t necessarily been a hotbed in its recruitment. The last Mining City player to suit up for the Bobcats before Ferriter was offensive lineman Casey Dennehy of Butte High, whose last season was 2011.
(Butte High wide receiver Dalton Daum was with the program in 2016 but left before playing a game).
Central kids have been even more scarce.
“I don’t know,” Ferriter said, tilting his head when asked who the last former Maroon was to play at MSU prior to him. “That’s actually really good question.”
Central graduates Jim Sweeney and Sonny Lubick have a special place in Bobcat lore as former coaches, but Ferriter is happy to carry that torch at Montana State these days — although he’s quick to point out that Central lineman Aaron Richards has verbally committed to join the program next fall, along with Butte High quarterback Tommy Mellott.
When called upon, Ferriter delivers on defense for the Bobcats whether he’s playing against the run or the pass. He's made seven tackles to date, and had one of the team’s six sacks in a key Week 2 victory over then-No. 12 Southeast Missouri.
And he hasn’t shied away from his identity as a role player.
“I can give someone a break and hopefully they can trust me when I go out there and I can make a play or two,” Ferriter said. “I know my freshman year I was super light, so that was a big thing. I knew I needed to gain weight as I got older if I wanted to play and keep playing.
“As long as I went out there and had fun and kept chipping away at it, I never thought playing time was a big deal. I was having such a fun time doing it. I knew my time would come. I consider myself a role player but I embrace it. This season has been so fun. I knew how good our team was going to be.”
The Bobcats (4-1, 1-0 Big Sky) have won four consecutive games and are ranked No. 6 in this week’s STATS Top 25 FCS poll. There’s a lot to like about where they’re sitting as the season creeps toward its midpoint.
But Ferriter insists the team is looking no further than Saturday’s road game against Cal Poly (2-2, 1-0), an opponent that employs the triple option and will look to run the ball upwards of 60 times this week.
“Obviously you have goals and everything like that, but right now it’s honestly Cal Poly,” said Ferriter, who will likely get plenty of turns in the rotation against the Mustangs' ground attack.
“Right when you start overlooking a team or thinking about future goals you might not go out there with the same energy and you might lose. In the Big Sky especially, I just think each week you need to worry about that team you’re playing.”