MISSOULA — Montana's starting right tackle is a large man.
Colton Keintz, a redshirt freshman from Missoula, stands at 6-foot-8 and weighs 287 pounds, according to the Grizzly roster. He's the tallest football player on the team and is one of just six players in the Big Sky Conference 6-foot-8 or taller.
The others: Montana State's Jarrod Asche (6-foot-8, 300), Idaho's Dylan Korte (6-foot-8, 280), Portland State's Daniel Giannosa (6-foot-8, 260), Weber State's Chinoso Opara (6-foot-9, 270) and UC Davis' Joe Albrecht (6-foot-9, 310).
But being tall is just normal life for Keintz.
"It's cold up here," Keintz said with a laugh. "I've always been tall for my age. I was a relatively normal sized baby growing up. I was big, but I was also a couple weeks early. I was big even though I was early. That was the first sign that I was going to be big.
"When I hit fifth or sixth grade I realized, 'I'm a whole head taller than everybody here and I'm hitting the height of the teachers.' It was about then when I couldn't shop for clothes at kid stores anymore. At a pretty early age I had to get rid of the fun clothes and get into the stuff that fits. It's weird just because I've been used to it my whole life."
Despite Keintz' large stature, he only started playing football as a sophomore for Missoula Big Sky. And from there he fell in love.
Q: Why did you start playing football as a sophomore?
"It's actually a funny story. My mom, my sophomore year, she said I have to play a sport or get a job. After my freshman year, I thought, well, 'I guess I'll go out for football.' I was hesitant to do it, but I had the head coach, Matt Johnson, he was one of my teachers my freshman year and he was always saying — I was about 6-foot-5 back then — 'You gotta come play football.' I danced around it for a while, but my sophomore year I was like, 'All right. I guess I'll go out and play football.' I showed up and I barely played. I did a lot of scout team and broke my arm halfway through, but then the season ended and I figured, 'This is the best thing I've ever done. I want to keep doing this.' It was honestly a real impulse decision and one that I was really hesitant to do, but it ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made."
Q: Why do you think you were hesitant to do it?
"I hadn't been very into sports growing up. I played a little bit of soccer. My parents made me play soccer and baseball. They're good sports but they're not for me. I never saw myself as a sports guy. I was always a big kid, but I never saw myself as a sports guy. I never found the thing like, 'This is what I want to do.' Then football came along and my sophomore year when I played I barely knew the rules — still working on them. I was hesitant at first, but I'm really glad I did it."
Q: What are your initial thoughts on Sacramento State?
"It's going to be a really good game and I'm really excited to be a part of it. I'm really excited to be a part of this team and I know we're working really hard. I think we had a good week of practice and we're going to go after them. I'm excited to see how this pans out on Saturday."
Q: What's it like being a hometown kid on this team?
"I grew up watching the Griz. When I was really, really little I'd go to a bunch of games and would always tell my parents, 'When I grow up I'm going to play for the Griz.' Since I was never into sports I always thought I was kidding myself, so it's really surreal to be a part of this program that I idolized for so long. I've only lived in Missoula. One thing about Missoula is they love the Griz. I was part of that growing up. I loved the Griz. I still didn't know anything about football, but I loved going to the games. I loved the experience and now to be a part of it is surreal. It's not something I would have seen myself doing this time five years ago."
Q: You're a redshirt freshman and you're a starter. How cool is that for you?
"It's insane. I never saw it coming. I got a lot of reps in spring ball and the coaches pushed me really hard. I think it made me a better player. It's still processing. I grew up watching the Griz and now here I am being a such a big part of the offense. It leaves me at a loss for words, honestly, because I would have never seen this coming. I have so many people to thank for it. There have been people who have stuck by me through every snap of my football career, as short as it's been. Whether they're my family, coaches, everybody believed in me, even when I didn't. I can never thank those people who helped me enough and the people who are still helping me here. The coaches here, I have an unending gratitude to them because it's making me a better player and I think it's making me a better man."
Q: What is your go-to pump up music before games?
"I like EDM and a lot of old school Eminem. He has a lot of good stuff that I got forced into in the locker room in high school because I didn't really know how to pump myself up before games. I'd just hear these songs blasting and say, 'Oh these are pretty cool. I'll hold onto these.'"
Q: What are your hobbies outside of football?
"Film making. I'm a media arts major with an emphasis on film making. I have done it since before high school. My closest friends and I, we've done it together for years. We were heads of film for our drama troupe at Big Sky and I also did theater. When we get together, there's four of us, we always do something revolving around film. We just love it. We think it's so much fun that it doesn't seem like work."
Q: Who is your favorite professional athlete?
"I've always idolized Tyron Smith. He's an offensive lineman for the Cowboys and he's always a guy I've watched. He's played an insane amount of football in his life, especially being drafted and going right away to being a starter. He's a guy that I've always looked up to. Him and Joe Thomas. Two legendary tackles in the league and two guys who I've really tried to model my game after."
Q: Any hidden talents?
"I'm really flexible. If I didn't have my knee braces on, I could put my foot behind my head. I've been flexible all my life and it freaks the coaches out. When we stretch I can bend so much farther than everybody. It scares them so much."
Q: You're listed as a theater major on the roster. What do you like about theater?
"I always thought I thrived on stage. I always felt like I did well in front of an audience. I was meant to be out there. I started doing it really little. The first time I did it was Missoula Children's Theater. I was about eight. I did a lot of their local shows. I always thought it was fun being out in front of people. I love to make people laugh. If I can make someone laugh, it makes me happy. I felt like that was my opportunity to go out there and make people laugh, be who I am, and I followed that through high school. I was a theater major for a little bit in my first semester, but theater here is also a year-round commitment. It's a lot of work. They work really hard over there. But I had to pick one, so here I am."
Q: Your username on a bunch of social media accounts has BFG (Big Friendly Giant) in it. Any reason for that other than the obvious?
"I sorta noticed the nickname when that animated movie about that giant came out. I actually haven't seen it, but I need to. People just started calling me that. It was given to me before I started using it. But I really liked it so I ran with it. I just embrace it. I like it. My license plate on my car says 'BFG 76.' It cost money and it was worth every penny."
Q: Who were some of your favorite Griz players from your childhood?
"My favorite player has to be Jordan Tripp. He went to Big Sky, went to the Griz and then went on to the pros. I've met him once or twice. I've talked to him a little bit just about advice because when I walked on here I had no idea what was going on. I talked to him, 'What am I going to expect?' And I talked to him, 'What am I going to expect under Coach Hauck?' Definitely Jordan. He's really my hero, especially having a very similar background, going to the same school — the best school, in my opinion. I really look up to Jordan."
Q: What does being a Grizzly mean to you?
"It just means going out there and being a tough player. Football is a violent sport and there are going to be bang ups. People are going to get hit, but the most important thing is how you respond to adversity. A few weeks ago when Rob O'Neill came in to talk to us, he talked about what to do when everything goes wrong. I think that responding to adversity is an identity of this team. When things don't go our way, I've seen us basically lick our wounds, stand up and hit back. That's just something I'm really glad to be a part of. I do my best and do everything I can to just stand up after every time I get knocked down. I expect that of my teammates and they should expect it of me. Just being tough and responding to adversity, really is what being a Grizzly means to me."
Q: Three things you'd bring with you on a deserted island?
"Water, a volleyball named Wilson and canned food."
Q: What would you do if you won the lottery?
"Make it rain. (Laughs.) I'd probably eat a lot. I'd get a lot of food. That'd probably be my first thing. That's my favorite thing to do, other than football."
Q: What's next up in your Netflix or Hulu queue?
"Ooh boy. I binge watch 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' a lot. That's one my favorite shows. I haven't hit season five in a while, so I'll probably watch season five soon."
Q: What do you like about being an offensive lineman?
"It's a hard job. I think it's an important job. A lot of guys say, 'The linemen never get any love. They're out there grinding and they don't get any love.' I really don't think that's true. Guys on the team, especially Dalton (Sneed) and Adam (Eastwood), they're so quick to appreciate the front and it means a lot. It really means a lot when they come up and say, 'Good protection. Good job.' I think it's a position I was made to play. It's the only position I want to play. It's a hard job, but it's a fun job. There aren't any other guys next to me on the line or behind me in the backfield, there aren't any other guys I'd rather have."