MISSOULA — Cole Sain's love for the state of Montana runs deep.
Even though Sain — a 6-foot-4, 280-pound, 3-star offensive tackle — has spent the past nine years in California, he comes back to his home state whenever he can.
"I'm always trying to get up to Montana, whether it's going fishing or spending time with family," Sain told 406mtsports.com. "I love being out there. It's going to be awesome to be back."
"Back" meaning that the Hamilton-born, Darby-bred offensive line product committed to Montana on Wednesday evening.
"I want to start off by thanking God for the opportunity he has presented me," Sain began in a tweet. "I would like to thank my parents for all they have done and sacrificed to allow me to chase my dreams. Lastly, thank you to all the coaches at Bosco and Giantskillz for helping me grow into the player and person I am today.
"I have decided that I'm going to go back to my home state of Montana to continue my football and academics. With that being said, I am officially committed to the University of Montana."
Sain said the reason he pulled the trigger and committed Wednesday evening was due to the successful home visit he had with Montana head coach Bobby Hauck and recruiting coordinator Justin Green earlier in the day.
"Being from Montana, I always loved the Griz, but I wanted to wait until I met Coach Hauck and see how that went," Sain said. "It went good. I liked him and I think we're going to have some good times the next four to five years."
Growing up in the Bitterroot and coming to games made that meeting all the more special.
"When I came to games, Bobby Hauck was the coach," Sain said. "That was cool. And at that time, they were killin' it. Going to national championships, it was cool to watch that."
He added: "It's cool because I always envisioned maybe one day playing for the Griz. I always had dreams growing up of playing Division I football. For that to finally happen and come true is pretty special."
Hauck's visit paired with how offensive line coach Chad Germer was retained onto next season's staff was a big deal to Sain.
Sain said Germer remaining on staff "was a big part" of his decision in coming to Montana.
"With the visit — I had a couple visits up there — I met Coach Germer," Sain said. "He's a great coach. I got to talk with him a lot and see how he operates things. That was big that he's staying because it definitely would have been a factor in my decision. It may have been the same way, but it was a big part of it."
Sain's Montana connections aren't only Griz-related.
His dad, John, played for the Bobcats in the 1980s and earned second-team All-Big Sky honors as an offensive guard in 1987. His uncle, Mike, was a Bobcat during that time too.
But even then, Sain's loyalty to the Grizzlies never wavered.
"Growing up, my dad never took me to any Bobcat games," Sain said. "I always went to the Griz games, so that's how that was."
Sain prepared for his college days at national powerhouse St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California.
Their 2017 squad was ranked No. 3 nationwide by Maxpreps.com. The Braves' game against Mater Dei in the Southern Section Division 1 championship game was called, "a matchup for the ages" and "a must-see event" by the Los Angeles Times.
The Braves lost the title game 49-24 to the Monarchs — the top-ranked team in the country by Maxpreps.com. Two of St. John Bosco's losses on the season came to Mater Dei.
"It's been awesome," Sain said of playing for Bosco. "Playing against top recruits in the country, ESPN 300 guys, and even playing against the top D-linemen in the country every day at practice.
"... Those guys have prepared me and made me a lot better this past year. I feel like that's been a big, key part of my success. A lot of our team's success is being surrounded by such great players. We all get each other better."
Sain had offers from eight or nine schools, including Air Force and Big Sky's Portland State, Northern Colorado and Montana.
Montana stood out above the rest for many reasons. But the biggest reason?
"It's just home."
Most members of the Class of 2018 have already signed their National Letters of Intent.
Sain joins two other high school commits who still have yet to sign their NLI. Sain, along with Cole Grossman of Vancouver, Washington and Missoula Loyola's David Koppang, anticipate signing their NLIs on National Signing Day on Feb. 7.
Signees in Montana's 2018 class include: Kalispell Glacier's Jackson Pepe, Drew Turner and Max Morris, Eureka's Garrett Graves, Helena Capital's Conor Quick, Billings Senior's Gabe Sulser, Missoula Sentinel's Nick Germer, Missoula Big Sky's Levi Janacaro, Valier's Colten Curry, Nash Fouch of Woodinville, Washington, Sean Anderson of Buckeye, Arizona, Tyler Ganoung of Portland, Oregon and Lorenzo Brown of Las Vegas.
Incoming transfers include: Fort Scott CC (Kan.)'s Dalton Sneed and Air Force Prep's Eli Alford.