BILLINGS – One of the most veteran, and light-hearted groups, of Billings West’s football team is the offensive line.
Having returned four starters on the offensive side, the team starts and stops with the big fellas. And they are big. With four seniors and one junior, West sports one of the biggest and most experienced lines in the state with left tackle Kobe Nelson (6-foot-5, 260 pounds), left guard Connor Paul (6-2, 260), center Carter Slade (6-3, 245), right guard Jaden Bienvenue (6-2, 255) and right tackle Levi Malcolm (6-5, 275). Malcolm and Paul are in their third years as starters while Nelson and Slade are in their second. Bienvenue, a junior originally from Broadview before moving to Billings midway through his freshman year, replaced Nick Clawson, who currently plays at Montana Tech.
Last year, Paul was a first-team all-state selection at guard, while Nelson was honorable mention. Paul and Bienvenue both start on defense as well while the entire groups will see time.
From how much they eat to what they had to say about one another, here is a Q&A to get to know West’s offensive line.
Q: What does a typical day of meals consist of for you during the season?
Nelson: I usually don’t have time to eat breakfast so just get out the door. I’ll always eat something after second period lifting, though, like a bag of chips or something. Then I’ll go to lunch, try to get as much food in as possible because I know I have to practice. Then for dinner my dad usually makes something big like (Thursday night) we’re having steaks.
Paul: I usually don’t have breakfast but sometimes I’ll have a bowl of cereal. We don’t have really anything healthy around here so I end up going down to Wendy’s or somewhere in there and getting just a buttload of food. Dinner, basically, my mom cooks at home so I’ll have whatever she’s having.
Slade: Probably getting up in the morning and eating something that’s granola-based. Fruits. A lot of water. At lunch, more fruits. Lot of carbs and protein. And then dinner it’s usually something that has meat. Vegetables. Just trying to stay healthy with nutrition and lots of water.
Bienvenue: Meat, meat, meat. I eat a lot of meat. I wake up and make a breakfast wrap and will put meat in it. I’m also eating granola bars and snacking on cheeses all day. Lot of vegetables. They like to make fun of me because I eat salads, but they’re good. I have corn, cheese and a lot of meat in them. I have all that good stuff. I’ll go home and probably have like two steaks. I eat a lot of meat. Every meal has to have meat in it. Overall, I probably consume anywhere from 3,000-5,000 calories a day.
Malcolm: I’m just always eating. Breakfast isn’t really a priority for me some days. Just a lot of protein. About three protein shakes and three meals a day.
Q: If the five of you sit down at a buffet, who eats the most?
Nelson: That’s Levi. He puts down some food.
Paul: Levi. No. 66 for sure.
Bienvenue: That’s Levi. We can all get right there but if we’re feeling full he’ll keep going. He doesn’t really have a limit.
Malcolm: Yeah it’d probably be a tossup between Jaden and me, but I’d probably pull through in the end.
Q: What’s your individual pregame ritual?
Nelson: Honestly I kind of just sit in silence and just get ready for the game.
Paul: I kind of just sit and find a corner somewhere and just be by myself for a little bit and just visualize how it’s going to go and that kind of stuff.
Slade: I’m pretty silent. I just kind of go out and it’s just once you step out on the field you go and hit someone. Also, just before we go out and we play, we pray.
Bienvenue: Music is huge. I have to have the right music. When I get taped up I always write the same stuff on my hand like people who are important to me. Just lock yourself and knowing that you’ve got your guys here and making sure they’re locked in. I lead the pregame prayer. That’s kind of the big one to end it off right before game time.
Malcolm: I just listen to music and get zoned in and ready to go.
Q: Who is the strongest?
Nelson: Connor Paul.
Paul: That’d be me. I just have the highest max lifts out of everybody.
Q: Who is the toughest?
Nelson: Probably Connor again. He started his sophomore year, so just experience and strength.
Paul: If I had to say, I think Carter or Jaden are probably the toughest just because they’re gritty and they grind.
Slade: I want to say Connor again because he takes a lot of abuse starting both ways.
Malcolm: I don’t think I could say toughest across the group. We’re all pretty tough and go out there as a family at this point and go out and fight for each other.
Q: Who is the fastest?
Nelson: Probably me.
Paul: Kobe Nelson.
Slade: Kobe probably.
Bienvenue: Kobe, he’s got the longest legs.
Malcolm: Probably Kobe.
Q: Who knows the playbook the best?
Nelson: Either me or Carter.
Paul: Probably Carter. He usually has to direct traffic for all of us.
Slade: Yeah that’s me.
Bienvenue: As far as knowing everyone’s positions, I’d say it’s Carter because he’s calling stuff out all of the time and stuff for key calls and what we need to do and stuff.
Malcolm: Probably Carter. He’s center and he knows everything across the board.
Q: Who is the quietest?
Nelson: Probably Carter or me.
Paul: Probably me. I’m not very loud.
Slade: Probably me. I’m just not really a talkative guy. I think I usually talk for jokes.
Bienvenue: It could be a tossup between Carter and Kobe. But once you get to know them they’re pretty talkative.
Malcolm: Probably Carter. He keeps to himself quite a bit.
Q: Who is the most vocal?
Paul: Probably Carter still.
Slade: Either Jaden or Levi.
Bienvenue: It’s me! I’m the most vocal. I’m the rah rah guy. That’s definitely me.
Malcolm: Probably Jaden.
Q: Who is the funniest?
Nelson: Levi just because of how big of a dork he is. We’re always laughing at him.
Bienvenue: Oh yeah that’s me. That’s definitely me. I bring comedy and make people happy. That’s my thing.
Malcolm: Jaden again. He’s kind of a comedian and the voice of the group. He keeps a smile on all of our faces.
Q: Who is the group leader?
Nelson: I don’t really think we really have a leader, you know? We all just do our part.
Paul: Our vocal leader is Jaden, but I kind of lead by example.
Slade: We kind of lead as a group. Communicating with each other. Making decisions and plays based upon what the front is.
Bienvenue: We all kind of have our moments of different aspects for what we’ll lead for. If we’re having a down day and somebody has to get in somebody’s face, it’s probably going to be me. I’m probably like the vocal leader while the other guys are probably more going to do it by example. We all kind of lead in our own different ways and that’s actually pretty key in what makes us unique.
Malcolm: Like I said before, we’re all a family and we all work as a unit. Nobody goes above. We all bring each other together.
Q: What’s your favorite activity to do together off the field?
Nelson: We have the weight room, obviously. Always have fun in there. Then we have group chats on Snapchat. Those are always fun to scroll through.
Paul: We kind of like to talk in the halls, walk and just hang out together.
Slade: Eat. Healthy dose of making fun of each other but not going too far and lifting. Keep it light-hearted.
Bienvenue: We lift all the time. We like to eat a lot. We hang out a decent amount, too.
Malcolm: We all enjoy lifting. Our size probably shows that. We just hang out.
Q: When you’re in the weight room, which of you controls the playlist?
Nelson: We like to listen to rock and country, but all of the skills position players like their hip-hop.
Paul: When the skills players don’t have it, probably Jaden.
Slade: The skill guys always take it. We’ll go with Jaden’s rock and country. We usually don’t get the opportunity to take the music in the weight room.
Bienvenue: I’m die-hard in my music. It’s a huge thing for me. The skills position players, just because there’s more of them and they’re older, they like to play their stuff. They play a lot of hip-hop and rap and stuff. I’m an old-school hip-hop guy just because I’m an old soul. Especially when they’re gone, you bet I’m taking over. It’s all 80’s rock like Van Halen or Ted Nugent.
Malcolm: Jaden would be the one picking it, but it would be a lot of like 80’s rock and some older stuff.
Q: What’s your favorite kind of music to work out to?
Nelson: Country probably.
Paul: I like 80’s rock. AC/DC, Metallica, those kind of guys.
Slade: Rock ‘n roll.
Bienvenue: When it comes to working out, it’s the hard rock and 80’s rock.
Malcolm: Rock and country and a little bit of reggae.
Q: What is the biggest topic of conversation among your group?
Nelson: Not much football is talked about besides like after a game you’ll say, ‘oh I did this or I did that.’ Just a bunch of teenage guys getting together and having conversations. You know how those turn out.
Paul: Women. Food. Guess it depends on who I’m talking to.
Slade: Lifting or football or other activities like track.
Bienvenue: We tease each other a lot that’s for sure. That’s kind of everybody on the team, though, that’s the best thing that creates a positive atmosphere. Talk about food and girls a lot. We kind of talk about a lot of things. We’re kids, so whatever anybody ever did as a kid that’s kind of what we talk about.
Malcolm: We’ll just talk about practice and how maybe somebody messed up and we’ll just give them a bad time. Always have a laugh going.
Q: What is special about this group?
Nelson: Probably just the sheer size and strength we have coming out from last year. All of our experience.
Paul: We’re all just really close and we get each other. We always have fun making fun of each other and it’s just like a brotherhood kind of thing. I think that’s just what helps us really get going when it gets deep and stuff.
Slade: Just coming together as one. Always kind of getting on each other if we’re not in the weight room. That light-hearted joking. We come a little bit closer when we do that.
Bienvenue: It’s that we all kind of lead in our own ways and that we’re all pretty good buds with each other. We have our unique personalities, but we all just kind of bond in that weird way. We’re a unit together.
Malcolm: We have just been a crew along for the ride for a long time and it has turned out to be a pretty successful group.