MISSOULA — For some, teaching is a profession.
For others, it’s a passion.
For Montana Grizzly senior quarterback Andrew Selle, it’s both.
While still surrounded by a slew of talent on a team that is looking to make its third consecutive appearance in the national title game, Selle enters his final year in maroon and silver looking to pass on his knowledge and experiences to those around him not only on the gridiron, but off it as well.
“He’s the type of guy who likes to help people. You can see that on and off the field,” said senior tailback Chase Reynolds. “He’s going to school to be a teacher, which says a lot about the type of person he is. He’s a leader and he wants to help people. Andrew’s just a great guy to be around and he’s a great model for the kids, too.”
“It’s part of being a leader and that nature of the position at quarterback,” Selle said. “You have to study more. You have to know more. And then you learn that much more and have to relate it to your teammates and make sure you’re on the same page and make sure everyone knows what they’re doing.”
Selle, a mathematics major whose desire is to pursue a teaching career after college, is in the rare position of being called on not only as a leader of one of the top teams in the Football Championship Subdivision, but also as a leader to his teammates in the classroom.
So far in his collegiate career the quarterback is boasting a grade point average near 3.75 and has a proven track record as one of the top signal-callers in the FCS.
In a day and age where football programs are dissected and vilified for their lack of enthusiasm regarding student-athlete performance in the classroom, Selle has set the bar high as an athlete, a student, and as a passionate, outgoing member of the community.
In the realm of athletics, Selle was recently placed on the Walter Payton Award watch list. The award is given to the top offensive player in the FCS at the end of the season.
“It’s a great honor,” Selle said. “You look at the past winners. You got guys on there like (two-time winner) Armanti Edwards, (Dallas Cowboys quarterback) Tony Romo, (former Philadelphia Eagles running back) Brian Westbrook — guys who have gone on to have great careers in the NFL, so to even just be put on the list is a great honor and it’s an accomplishment really for stuff we’ve done in the past.”
Selle, however, wasn’t the only Griz to make the cut as Reynolds also made the list. It is the first time in school history the Griz have had two players make the watch list in the same year.
“I think it’s awesome,” Reynolds said. “Especially for Andrew. He played one year and really came out of his shell and became the leader of this team.”
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The national recognition is a culmination of Selle’s improvement on the field since he established himself as Montana’s starting quarterback midway through last season.
Although they fell short of the title, the road to the championship game was a memorable one for the Griz.
In the first round, they were almost derailed by South Dakota State at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in a game that made national headlines and proved to be one of Selle’s finest moments on a football field.
In arguably one of the greatest games in the history of Griz football, Selle helped engineer Montana’s largest playoff comeback by throwing for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns while rallying the top-seeded Grizzlies from a 27-point deficit in the second half.
“For guys like us, I don’t think you look back at one particular game,” Reynolds said. “But if you do look at that game you go, ‘Hey, that’s what I’m capable of’. ... I look back at that game and I think for one we shouldn’t have been down that far and two, that shows everyone’s strength as a team right there that we can come back from absolutely nothing to something. ... None of us thought (Selle) couldn’t do it.”
For the Billings West graduate, it’s one of the first times he’s made regional headlines since leading the Golden Bears over Helena Capital in the 2005 Class AA state title game. The triumph gave Billings West its first perfect season and solidified Selle’s stellar reputation forever in the annals of Golden Bear football lore.
By the time he was ready to move on from Billings West, Selle had accumulated a perfect 4.0 grade point average and finished as the top-ranked student in a class of 507.
Last spring Selle took his love for teaching to the next level, instructing math as a student-teacher at Missoula Hellgate.
“It was a great experience. I love being over there with those kids,” Selle said. “I occasionally see students around town and it’s just good to see them and have a relationship with those students.”
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Although he garnered a few ooh’s and aah’s from his students, the gunslinger turned teacher maintains that once he stepped into the classroom he was an instructor, not a quarterback.
“I wasn’t the quarterback of the Griz to them,” Selle said. “I was Mr. Selle. I was their teacher and that kind of relationship that we developed was much greater than me going in there as the quarterback or the football player from the university.”
Selle’s dedication to education and helping others has garnered attention.
This summer, Selle became one of 112 college football players nominated to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. The candidates are chosen from the Football Bowl Subdivision, the FCS, Division II, Division III, and NAIA.
“I think it’s as good as or better than being nominated for the stuff on the field,” Selle said.
The team is made up of players who are prominent and positive examples in their local communities.
Past members of the team include 2010 NFL first-round picks Tim Tebow and Gerald McCoy, Super Bowl champion quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning, and ESPN football analyst Trent Dilfer.
Two teams consisting of 11 players each will be announced in late September.
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Outside of teaching, Selle also volunteers at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and is a member of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee. The purpose of the committee is to motivate student-athletes to help and volunteer within their communities.
Selle got involved with the juvenile diabetes foundation after his roommate, close friend, and former Griz basketball player Kyle Sharp asked him if he wanted to help.
Sharp, who has diabetes, played in 116 games for the Grizzlies from 2005-09 and averaged 4.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game over the course of his career.
One of Selle’s inspirations for working in the community this year came as he was reading New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ memoir.
The book, titled “Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity,” tells of the Super Bowl champion’s recovery from major reconstructive shoulder surgery paralleled with the recovery of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
“He’s obviously done a lot in the community of New Orleans and San Diego and really reached out to a lot of different communities,” Selle said of Brees. “I think it’s a great thing. When you’re in a position like Drew Brees and when you’re seen in the community as a role model it’s your responsibility to reach out into the community and do good works.”
With all of his extracurricular activities, Selle unfortunately has put himself a little behind the rest of the team in learning the new offense that first-year coach Robin Pflugrad has brought to the Griz, Pflugrad said.
However, knowing the senior quarterback and how hard he works, Pflugrad anticipates Selle will be more than ready to take on the rigors of learning a new system and be as successful as ever.
“It was kind of a loss to our staff and players,” Pflugrad said. “I wanted him to be here all the time. It’s a positive, but we missed him. And Andrew will make up for that — I’m sure he made up for that this summer. I’m excited for him to take the bull by the horns once we start (practice).”
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One player Selle has taken under his wing on and off the field is junior wide receiver Jabin Sambrano.
After a breakout season in which Sambrano blossomed as a game-changing wide-out behind recent NFL draftee Marc Mariani and former wide receiver Ty Palmer, the Temecula, Calif., native now moves into the top spot on a loaded but mostly unproven depth chart of receivers.
With his incredible speed and his reputation for making the big catch, there are few things that Sambrano has trouble with on the gridiron.
For the talented receiver, it’s not the defenders in the Big Sky Conference that give him the most difficulty; it’s the math problems that await him at home after he takes off the pads.
But like any good leader, teacher, and quarterback, Selle guided the young wide receiver just as if he was throwing a ball down the sideline against Appalachian State in the snow for a 25-yard touchdown.
Selle tutored Sambrano at least twice a week, just as he had previously tutored Keith Thompson, the former Griz cornerback who will probably be remembered most for delivering a bone-crushing hit on Appalachian State’s Matt Cline on national TV in the playoffs last season.
“Andrew Selle’s a great teacher,” Sambrano said. “What people don’t know is that I was struggling in my classes, like in math class for example, and Selle would come out after practice and help me out. He would come and tutor me. He didn’t have to do that. He did it out of his own time even though he was tired.”
For Selle, taking the opportunity to teach is never an opportunity wasted. It doesn’t matter if he’s helping a teammate read a cover-two defense or a high school kid with basic algebra.
“I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I could remember and (teaching at Hellgate) was just as great as I could have imagined,” Selle said. “For me it’s a great feeling knowing that (teaching) is what I wanted to do, I enjoyed it, and I can do it the rest of my life.”