There was something special about visiting with Montana's coaches last summer.
Sure, the towering Washington-Grizzly Stadium resonated deep down for Marcus Welnel, who grew up a fan hardly 100 miles to the east in Helena, but the small details were what stuck with the Capital High linebacker all these months later.
"What I really liked about Montana, they all knew who I was when I walked on campus," Welnel explained this week. "... When I went to Montana, (the coaches) all seemed to know exactly who I was without having to introduce myself."
When the Grizzlies this month offered Welnel a scholarship to play football at Montana, the high school senior jumped at the opportunity. His verbal commitment Thursday evening marked the latest in a surge of recruits pledging their allegiance to the Grizzlies. Welnel is the fifth commit in less than a week dating back to last Saturday.
Unlike two of those, junior college defensive ends Chris Favoroso (Arizona Western) and Dylan Gilfoy (Diablo Valley) signed mid-year transfer papers Wednesday, Grizzly coaches are restricted from commenting on high school commits before National Signing Day on Feb. 1.
The recent rush of recruits has Montana up to 18 commits for the class of 2017 and Welnel's addition makes it 10 from the Treasure State.
Welnel (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) played all over in the Bruins' offense, taking snaps at fullback, tight end, receiver and running back in 2016, but his primary position and where Montana sees him playing at the next level is at outside linebacker. For a program that has been among the most successful in the state for decades, Welnel stood out, said Capital coach Kyle Mihelish.
"He'll go down as probably one of the best linebackers in Capital High history in what we've been able to do and get out of him," said Mihelish, the Bruins' head coach the past two years after serving as an assistant since 2004.
Welnel piled up 102 tackles in 11 games during an all-state senior season, according to maxpreps.com, and helped Capital to the Class AA state semifinals. He combined strength and speed as one of the state's most dynamic defenders.
And he was versatile, Mihelish added.
"He did some things for us that we weren't able to do in the past," the coach said. "... He's categorized as an outside linebacker but in certain formations we may see from the offense, he can play a roll-down type safety or even in some coverages he's almost like a corner(back) for us."
That same skill set was present in Montana's starting outside linebackers the past two seasons, where the speed of players like Herbert Gamboa and Josh Buss was put to use covering inside receivers.
Welnel said he'll attend Montana on a partial scholarship and chose the Grizzlies over offers from other in-state NAIA schools in the Frontier Conference. He built a relationship with coaches Mike Ferriter, a receivers coach who is also from Helena, and Travis Niekamp, who coaches UM's linebackers.
He is the second Helena Capital player to commit to the Griz in the past two signing classes and will join former defensive teammate Cole Rosling in Missoula.
"I feel like it's prepared me more than I could ever ask for," Welnel said of playing for Capital. "The coaching staff, they do an amazing job. I credit all my football IQ to those guys. They taught me a lot over my four years there."