BOZEMAN — The prevailing theory at Montana State is that there are two separate-but-equal Mitch Brotts.
There’s the fierce, hard-nosed left tackle and one of the most important players in the Bobcats’ offense, and the placid, even-tempered engineering major who goes about his business with as little publicity or fanfare as possible.
“There’s angry Mitch and there’s happy Mitch,” as MSU coach Jeff Choate once described.
On the field, Brott plays nasty and is prone to an outburst or two if things aren’t going well. But he’s able to channel that into superb offensive line play that wholeheartedly benefits the Bobcats.
Off the field, Brott is much more reserved. He carries himself with a quiet demeanor, and he would probably rather have a hole in his head than do any media interviews — though he always says what’s on his mind.
Regardless, it can be hard to discern just what kind of mood he’s in.
“Depends on the day,” MSU defensive end Bryce Sterk said with a smile. “Football-wise he’s very consistent. I know that he’s played a lot of football and he’s started a lot of games. He’s very reliable. We can lean him to make his play and make his block.
“On the field he’s totally different than off the field, and I think that’s the case with a lot of guys. But I’m glad I’m not going against him in games when he’s on the field. He’s got a little bit of a mean streak in him.”
But don’t mistake mean with dirty. Brott simply plays with an edge that a lot of players don’t possess.
In the final analysis, though, Brott is nothing if not reliable, and that’s perhaps his best attribute.
Game in and game out, there he is, lined up at left tackle moving mountains for MSU’s creative yet rugged ground game and standing tall for the quarterback in pass protection.
To that point, Saturday’s game against third-ranked Montana — the 119th meeting between our state’s arch-enemies of college football — will mark another milestone in Brott’s career: It will be his 47th consecutive start, which will tie him for third-most in school history with two former MSU greats, linebacker Jody Owens and safety Kane Ioane.
Brott, who came to MSU from Billings West High School, has played and started in every game of his career since 2016, making him an invaluable cog in the Bobcats’ engine.
The school record is held by ex-Bobcat John Weidenaar, another left tackle who made 49 straight starts from 2012-15. If No. 8-ranked Montana State (8-3, 5-2 Big Sky) can make a little playoff run this year, Brott could find himself on top of that list.
“I am proud of it, but to a certain extent it’s really just a number,” Brott said. “It would be cool to go down as No. 1 with the most career starts. But in order to accomplish that our team needs to play as one unit.
“In order to be in the position we want to be in we have to compete well with every team. We can’t have any ups and downs. It really doesn’t come down to me as a single person with those starts, it comes down to everyone playing together.”
Said Choate: “He’s very proud of that, and he should be. For a guy playing on the offensive line to have that many consecutive starts is very impressive. His durability, combined with his ability and his toughness make him a very unique player.”
Brott would have never imagined his streak to be possible in his first few games as a Bobcat.
A turning point for Brott came early in his freshman season — at that time he was playing right tackle — when he had what he described as a poor performance in a game against Western Oregon and became paranoid that the coaches were going to replace him with a different offensive lineman.
Brott was convinced that things were coming to an end for him before they ever really got started.
But a conversation with Choate, in which the then-first-year head coach conveyed a message of reassurance, settled Brott’s nerves.
“He sat me down and explained to me that I was the man for that position and everything I was doing I needed to continue to do and not get in my own head,” Brott said. “That really brought some trust between me and him, and I’ve listened to everything he’s told me ever since.”
By the end of that season, Brott had been named a freshman All-American.
There were times in Brott’s earlier days as an athlete when, by his own admission, he would clash with coaches and set off on his own course of doing things his own way. But that kind of attitude doesn’t fly with Choate, so Brott had to adjust his way of thinking in order to flourish at MSU.
“I’ve always butted head with coaches. That really didn’t change until I got here,” he said. “I’m excited that Choate came through the program. I feel like he really helped me understand what I needed to do.”
Brott also admitted that he has struggled with school at times. As an engineering guy — construction engineering technology, to be specific — it can be hard to balance the weight of academics and athletics.
But Brott says football has been a conduit for him to release some pent-up aggression and stress that a difficult curriculum can bring.
Still, he’s on track to graduate, and if playing football at the next level doesn’t work out, he knows he has his education to fall back on.
Right now, the game against Montana (9-2, 6-1 Big Sky) is Brott’s only focus. He will certainly do his part to make a fourth straight win over the Grizzlies a reality.
“There’s no better feeling than being able to move the person in front of me from point A to point B against their own will,” Brott said. “I strive to have that feeling as much as I can. It’s kind of like an addiction almost. It’s a great feeling.
“Every Montanan is either a Cat fan or a Griz fan. If you can go out there and beat the other team, it just lights up half the state. When you’re out on the field, you’re playing for you but you’re also playing for half the state. That’s just something to be really proud about.”
And there’s only one Mitch Brott that needs to show up on Saturday for the Bobcats to have a chance.