You could say Tommy Mellott's quiet leadership, physical skills and mental discipline inspired the whole state to get behind the Bobcats' improbable run through the playoffs to the FCS national championship game.
You could say he's the latest in a long line of Montana State stars from Butte.
You could say Tommy Mellott is a symbol of Butte's toughness.
And you'd be right, every time.
Butte and all of Montana has a right to be proud of this incredibly talented freshman quarterback who accomplished more than anyone could have predicted when he took over the leadership of a Bobcat team, disappointed by a loss to the University of Montana, and helped to win the ensuing three playoff games by big margins, against very tough competition.
But most of all, we are proud of the young man's character.
More than a year ago, The Montana Standard wrote how young Mellott was unbelievably kind to a little girl who idolized him. And each step of the way as his accomplishments grew and he became known around the state and the country — against his will but backed by the facts — as "Touchdown Tommy," he remained himself. He is humble, determined, a fantastic teammate and an even better person.
Saturday, after being felled by an ankle injury in the Cats' very first offensive series, seeing championship hopes fade, he did everything he could do to support his team. ESPN cameramen captured him on the sidelines, shaking his teammates' hands after plays, and eventually wearing a headset and sending signals to the offense he could no longer lead on the field.
The Montana Standard congratulates the entire team on a fabulous season. And we can't let the opportunity pass without calling out the amazing Bobcat career of Troy Andersen of Dillon, who in four stellar years excelled for the Cats as a running back, quarterback and linebacker, winning All-America honors at the latter two positions. He has been a delight to watch and, like Mellott, has the character of a champion. He has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, served as a youth coach, and has worked with pediatric cancer victims.
As for Mr. Mellott, we wish him a speedy recovery, and feel more than secure in predicting he will be back on the field for more postseason heroics in coming years.
But if he never plays another down, Tommy Mellott has already captured the heart of his hometown forever.