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Rocky's Chase White, Tucker Meyer and Jayc Van Zee

From left, Rocky football players Chase White (6) Tucker Meyer (14) and Jayc Van Zee (3) pose for a portrait at Rocky Mountain College's Herb Klindt Field on Thursday.

BRONTE WITTPENN, Gazette Staff

Earlier this season, when Rocky Mountain College’s football team played at Northern Colorado, Les Meyer remembers arriving at the stadium and almost immediately bumping into longtime friend Doug Van Zee.

Moments later the two spotted Mike White, another familiar face, and the three and their families sat together and watched their sons carry on a bit of a family tradition.

Meyer, Van Zee and White played together years ago for the Battlin’ Bears. Their sons now are doing so.

Tucker Meyer, Jayc Van Zee and Chase White are seniors this season for Rocky, which on Saturday will host No. 9 Southern Oregon in its homecoming game.

Needless to say it’s a special time for the three fathers and sons who certainly share a longtime bond.

“It’s definitely a unique deal,” Les Meyer said earlier this week. “It’s reconnected us, and the kids playing together probably has made that connection closer. It’s fun to see them and have those conversations. It’s just brought us back together more as friends.”

Les Meyer and Doug Van Zee played at Rocky from 1988-92, while White played from 89-91 before leaving to play at Montana Western his final season.

Through different paths and in different years their sons ended up at Rocky. And during their time together, the three put it together that their fathers had played together with the Battlin’ Bears.

“I know they’re all good friends now, too,” Mike White said. “I think that makes it even better. We’ve seen them, as fathers, come together through the last four or five years.”

The bonds and connections of the trio run even deeper. The three current Rocky players all played at one time for their fathers, who became teachers, coaches and administrators.

Doug Van Zee was a longtime assistant football coach and also coached track at Billings West. He’s now the school’s athletic director.

Les Meyer is the football coach at Fairfield, last year’s Class B state champion, and the superintendent of schools. He’s also been a teacher and athletic director.

Mike White still coaches football and is the athletic director at Shelby. Next weekend, his Coyotes will face Meyer’s Eagles.

“I think that comes from their love of football — all three of them,” Jayc Van Zee said. “They have a deep passion for the game. My dad, he’s no longer coaching, but he did it since I was a baby. It’s been pretty awesome.”

Van Zee remembers going to Rocky games as a kid, knowing he was watching his father’s college team.

When it came time to choose where he would play, Jayc said there never was pressure from his father to attend Rocky. His older brother went to Western.

“Some local kids, they don’t look at their local college as an option,” Doug Van Zee said. “It really fit for Jayc. He was excited about playing football at that level and it just fit for him to stay in town and attend Rocky.”

Tucker Meyer also said he would attend occasional Rocky games as a kid. Given the chance, he too was going to go where his father had played. And this season, the younger Meyer is wearing the same No. 21 his father wore.

“From what I’ve heard, he was a pretty good player,” Tucker said. “So there’s some big shoes to fill. It’s a pretty cool deal for me to carry on his legacy and whatnot.”

Chase White originally was headed to the University of Montana but decided days before the start of his freshman season not to play. After a year off, he ended up with the Battlin’ Bears.

Playing the same quarterback position his father did, Chase White took over as starter last season and once again is having a solid season for 25th-ranked Rocky.

“It was a huge thought of mine,” Chase White said. “It’s the little things, like wearing his number in the East-West Shrine game. You look up to your dad, and he did a lot of good things while he was here. It’s been a cool experience for both of us.”

Though Mike White didn’t finish his career at Rocky or with Meyer and Van Zee, he remembers that time fondly.

“It was a great place and a great time while we were there,” he said. “When we came in, there was a lot of excitement brought back to the program. As far as Chase, I know he loves it there. He loves his teammates and has made a lot of great friends. It’s been a great experience for him, too.”

Jayc Van Zee said this final homecoming game will be exciting and bittersweet at the same time. It will be the end of the careers of those three who followed in their fathers’ footsteps.

Rocky is 3-2, 3-1 in the Frontier Conference and looking for a signature win. The Battlin’ Bears haven’t had a winning season since 2013, also the last time they reached the NAIA playoffs.

“When I walk into a game, I walk right by my parents’ tailgate and they’re sitting there with Tucker’s family,” Jayc Van Zee said. “When I walk by, I’m like, ‘Wow! That’s who you’re playing for.’ You’re playing for the dudes who did it before you. Our dads being one of them is pretty awesome.” 

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Sports writer for The Billings Gazette.