Montana football: Calling on character in the trenches

2014-08-19T15:11:00Z 2014-08-20T14:26:08Z Montana football: Calling on character in the trenchesBy BILL SPELTZ Missoulian The Billings Gazette
August 19, 2014 3:11 pm  • 

Before you go worrying about Jackson Thiebes, realize how far he’s come in a short period of time.

Maybe then you’ll start believing anything is possible for this upstart offensive tackle. A young man cut by the Montana football team just last year who now figures to be a key role player when the Griz open against Wyoming on Aug. 30.

“It’s hard to explain really,” said Thiebes, a Kalispell Glacier grad. “Just this last year being one of the hardest of my life really. For that whole year basically training by myself, not knowing whether or not it could pay off making the team.

“Then making the team and working my way through it. It’s going to be pretty crazy running out there at Wyoming.”

Go back and look at the 2013 Montana roster and Thiebes’ name is nowhere to be found. Better yet, go back a year earlier when he didn’t even consider himself a Division I prospect, electing to play for Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, out of high school.

Thiebes saw limited action at tight end and defensive end and finished with a whopping one solo tackle. He packed his bags for Missoula after a semester with hopes of playing for the Maroon & Silver.

One year later he made his way onto the Griz team, heading into 2014 spring drills as a tight end. Halfway through spring ball he was moved to the offensive line.

Now look at him. With health issues dogging UM veteran tackles Trevor Poole and John Schmaing, Thiebes will probably start at the all-important left tackle spot.

“It’s an opportunity,” he said in practice last week.

“I’m learning every day, going against the best in Wags and Tyrone,” he added, referring to senior defensive ends Zack Wagenmann and Tyrone Holmes. “Every day I’m starting to figure it out and competing more and more, just working on my hands and my feet.”

Jackson understands what’s on the line. He knows how much Griz QB Jordan Johnson will be relying on his left tackle to protect his blind side.

One thing is for certain: Jackson has a great role model. His late grandpa, Joseph Thiebes, lettered as a lineman for the Griz in 1942 before going off to fight in World War II, earning a Silver Star for gallantry and bravery in action against the enemy.

Joseph died before Jackson was born. His spirit lives on.

“My dad always talks about him and my grandma always has great stories about him,” Jackson shared. “Dad just says he was pretty hard-nosed, but a loving guy though. He said I would have gotten along with him great, fishing and hunting and stuff. He was a hero for sure.”

Considering what grandpa accomplished, playing football in Laramie, Wyoming, doesn’t seem so scary. In fact, it’s actually a nice way for Jackson to put his education to the test against the opposition. His major is psychology.

“I think maybe it helps a little,” said Thiebes, who turned in a solid effort in Saturday’s scrimmage. “Just being able to read their eyes a little and their body language.

“When their arms are all veiny, you know they’re definitely coming. You can just tell, breathing a little heavier or hands on their knees. But I’m still learning psychology and football.”

Regardless of how Aug. 30 turns out, nothing will change how Jackson feels about being a Grizzly. It’s all gravy from here.

“I just try to enjoy every day,” he said, “and think about how lucky I am.”

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

First look: Griz 34, Cats 7

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Montana dominated Montana State in the 114th meeting between the long time rivals in front of a record 26,352 fans at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Final score: Griz 34, Cats 7. The Bobcats turned the ball over seven times and the Grizzlies too…

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