GREAT FALLS — When Rick Anderson received a box full of books in February, he was overcome with emotion.

“I started crying,” he laughed. “I really did. I thought, this is it. I remember writing the very first paragraph of the book and now it’s done.”

After two and a half years and nearly 3000 hours of writing, research, interviews and publishing delays – Anderson finally had a finished product in his hands.

His new book, “The Program: 50 Years – 50 Memories of CMR Football History” documents the first five decades of Rustler football and is available now. It’s a project Anderson has been dreaming about for over a decade.

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“I hear all these great stories from old classmates about the great times and great memories we had at CMR football,” Anderson explained. “When I was at coach (Jack) Johnson’s retirement about two and half years ago, I thought ‘I need to get this thing done and rolling’. And I just wanted to encapsulate all these great stories, great memories and the records.”

Anderson played linebacker for CMR in the early 1980’s, winning a state title as a senior in 1984. In his own words Anderson was never a standout player. But he didn’t have to be to soak up life lessons from the legendary Johnson, Montana’s all-time winningest coach.

“He taught us about integrity,” Anderson said of the 41-year CMR mentor who retired in 2014. “He taught us how to be a part of something larger than yourself, how to be punctual, how to take pride in your appearance. Just little things like that stay with you way beyond when you leave the football field.”

One could easily fill a book with stories about Johnson and his remarkable career, but Anderson expanded his project to encompass 50 years of CMR football from 1965-2015. A span that includes 13 Class AA state titles, 35 crosstown wins, 25 Class AA offensive or defensive MVPs, four Montana Gatorade Football Players of the Year, seven future NFL or CFL draftees and countless stories and memories from the field and beyond.

Anderson did his best to put 50 years of history and tradition into the book’s nearly 200 pages.

“I thought I’d have this out and on the streets in six months,” explained Anderson. “But as I kept talking to people they kept sharing information with me and then I wanted to add more to the book. I didn’t want this to be a general book about football history. I wanted to include some of the stories. Fifty years is a long time span to narrow down, and so what I did was each year I tried to highlight one specific thing for that year.”

‘The Program’ is packed full of pictures and first-hand accounts of all the heart stopping moments, championship seasons and lifelong relationships forged by Rustler alumni. It’s already received lots of buzz in Great Falls which led to Anderson selling out his first shipment of books in three hours.

And perhaps most importantly, the book received an endorsement from the most important critic in town.

“The highlight of this whole experience was taking those four hard covers over to coach Johnson’s house,” Anderson said. “It was great experience to see the look on their faces knowing that this product is finally here. And I hope they enjoy it and definitely hope that I was able to capture everything that coach Johnson and Mrs. Johnson put into this program.”

The Program: 50 Years – 50 Memories of CMR Football History
is available now. To find out more about the book and to purchase a copy, visit the Facebook page or call Rick Anderson at (406) 781-7415.

Rick Anderson poses with his new book “The Program: 50 Years – 50 Memories of CMR Football History”. (TOM WYLIE/MTN Sports)