Thirty some odd years ago, I found myself in Butte, Mont., one Saturday in football season loaded up on sauce and ready to cheer and perhaps rumble.
Carroll College at Montana Tech.
The Fighting Saints at the Orediggers.
The funny part is I don’t recall today who won the game. I was going to Carroll at the time (before transferring to the University of Oregon) and my buddies and I had driven down early that day from Helena. But I do remember stepping over a passed-out and bloodied gentleman at the front doorway of a Butte bar at 7 a.m., hours before the game. The bartender, a tough-looking lady with a long history at the place, brushed off our alarms, telling us to ignore “Ol’ Harry.” He would soon awaken and make it home, she said. And, oh, by the way, what can I get you boys?
The incident left an indelible mark on me — as did subsequent trips to Butte and my growing fascination with the city’s roaring history, Victorian architecture, and Irish heritage
I only bring this up because I took particular interest this week in one of Oregon’s new football recruits, one Cody Carriger of said Butte, Mont. From what I’ve picked up, he is considered sort of an under-the-radar type. Coach Chip Kelly said if Carriger had come from California and not Montana, he might have been one of the top players in the country. But all I could think when I learned he had signed with Oregon was this: He’s from Butte!
If the Ducks were looking for a kid who embodies toughness and grit and hard work, they probably could not have gone to a better place than the nation’s old mining capital, where the residents still pride themselves on the rough-and-tumble.
Want someone who won’t shiver wearing a T-shirt in 10-degree weather? Go to Butte. Want someone who will never give an inch? Go to Butte.
It came as no surprise then when I tracked down the story on Carriger’s Oregon signing in The Montana Standard, the Butte newspaper, and read the comments from his high school coach.
This is no prima donna heading to Eugene.
“Cody has a great frame, but he’s one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever been around,” said Butte High School coach Arie Grey. “He’s always looking to make himself a better person and player. He has tremendous tools, and his work ethic will make him a very good player.
“The thing about Cody is he does whatever we ask him to,” Grey went on. “One week he’s at end, then he plays linebacker and then tight end.”
Oregon apparently envisions the 6-foot-7, 230-pound Carriger as a defensive end and outside linebacker — in the mold of other recent Ducks at those positions, players who have been tall, fast, athletic. And Carriger has plenty of that — he ran 11.47 seconds in the 100 meters last track season. He also is a star on the school basketball team.
“I’d like to come in this summer at a solid 235 or 240 pounds,” Carriger told the Butte newspaper when asked about his immediate future with the Ducks. “But they (Oregon coaches) told me not to worry about my weight — just concentrate on staying fast.”
He took his official visit to Eugene during the Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State. He got to run onto the Autzen Stadium turf with the Duck players and coaches.
“I always thought Montana-Montana State was crazy,” Carriger said. “The stadium was all green, except for this, like one inch strip of orange. It’s such an amazing atmosphere, you could feel it coming in there. I just wanted to play.”
That playing time is down the road a bit. Even Carriger realizes it won’t come easy.
“I’ve been in the weight room with my dad every morning since the sixth grade. But I think the real work is just starting,” he said.
See, no prima donna.
Just like Butte. That rough-and-tumble, hard-working, no-holding-back place.
I wonder whatever came of Ol’ Harry?
Recruiting week tidbits
Makes you wonder: Much is being made of Oregon recruiting tall defensive lineman. Carriger is 6-foot-7, Arik Armstead is 6-foot-8, DeForest Buckner is 6-foot-7 and Stetzon Bair is 6-foot-7. After revolutionizing offensive football, could Chip Kelly and his assistants be turning their attention to doing the same to the defensive side of the ball? What if the Ducks consistently start a defensive line that measures at least 6-foot-7 across the board (coupled with an athletic and fast linebacking corps and defensive backfield)? Imagine being the quarterback on the other team. Something to ponder … and watch.
Slow out of the gates: The Pac-12 has four new coaches — UCLA’s Jim Mora, WSU’s Mike Leach, Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez and Arizona State’s Todd Graham — all heralded in their own right. But of those four, only Mora managed to swing what the recruiting services judged a top recruiting class on Wednesday. Scout.com ranked UCLA No. 12 — with 28 recruits and an average star rating per player of 3.14. (Oregon was 15th with 21 recruits and an average star rating of 3.48). Arizona State was 43rd (23 recruits/2.87 average star rating), Arizona was 46th (24/2.71), and Washington State was 53rd (26/2.58).
Discovered diamonds: The two former Ducks in Sunday’s Super Bowl — the New England Patriots’ Patrick Chung and the New York Giants’ Spencer Paysinger — weren’t exactly highly recruited as preps. Chung garnered just a two-star ranking from Scout.com in 2004 out of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Paysinger was judged a two-star guy in 2006 out of Beverly Hills, Calif.