BOZEMAN — The Montana State Bobcats have a strong connection with the Bozeman Hawks, and they do for a good reason.

“One of the things I look at, when a lot of things are equal (in recruiting players), I take the kid from the winning program,” said MSU head coach Jeff Choate.

The Hawks have been one of the winningest Class AA programs in the state over the past few years, and the success is reflected on the Bobcats’ roster: Six players are currently playing for the hometown Bobcats. A pair of those talents, buck end Grant Collins and linebacker Balue Chapman, are among the most notable.

“You always come here for the games as a little guy,” Collins said. “Now, I actually have the opportunity. It’s something special.”

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The junior’s resume is impressive. He took home the USA Today Defensive Player of the Year in Montana while playing at Bozeman High before redshirting his first season at Montana State. He has started all 22 games he has played in since and knows that he needs to get even better as an upperclassman.

“As a junior, it’s kind of time to step up and start developing into a big-time player,” he said.

The younger Chapman played a season with Collins in high school. He admits to taking note of Collins’ game and its translating into playing time at the FCS level.

“I think he definitely rubbed off on me and taught me some good things that I’m trying to put to use here,” he said.

Collins and Chapman likely won’t share many reps in the regular season, as the freshman sits behind all-conference linebacker Mac Bignell, but the connection is taking place this summer and Choate is happy with his local guys.

“We feel fortunate to have a bunch of hometown guys that are going to have a ton of pride in wearing the Blue and Gold and representing the Bobcats,” he said.