(Editor’s Note: Montana State Sports Information Release)
BOZEMAN — It wasn’t much fun at the time, when Mitch Herbert missed nearly an entire middle school sports season recovering from major elbow surgery, but it’s proven fortuitous.
“It was really a grueling rehab,” Herbert said of recovering from the surgery that corrected a blood flow issue in his right elbow joint, but he admits that may have begun down the path to his cell biology and neuroscience degree, which he’ll receive from Montana State in May, and eventually to medical school. “That may have had some influence” in his future, he said with his trademark smile.
Herbert received a boost in that direction Friday when he became one of 58 student-athletes from all NCAA divisions and all fall sports to earn an NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship. Only 11 of those student-athletes played football, and only six from Division I. The prestigious award, based on academic excellence combined with athletic achievement and community involvement, grants Herbert and the other recipients $7,500 for the NCAA-member graduate school of his choosing. For Herbert, that likely means medical school. “I’ll start applying in June,” he said of the year-long process that will culminate, he hopes, in the fall of 2019.
Until then, he has the opportunity to cherish memories of a tremendous Bobcat career. Herbert finished second in program history in touchdown catches (21) and fifth in receiving yards (1,874). His 3.86 cumulative grade point average has earned him Second Team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors this fall, the most prestigious academic award in college athletics. He has volunteered countless hours in Bozeman during his four years, including for Special Olympics, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and at the emergency room of Bozeman’s hospital, where he “cleaned rooms, re-stocked (supplies) when they were really busy, just generally helped out.”
For Jeff Chaote, entering his third season as Montana State’s head coach, Herbert brings a recruiting hashtag to life. “It’s simple,” Choate says. “He’s The Right Cat. He’s everything you look for. His classmates, that group of seniors, are the bridge-builders that bought into our program, and Mitch is the great example of how we want to do things in this program. He is the poster boy for student-athlete, and this program, this athletic department, this university, are very proud of him.”
While Herbert says he is yet to spend any time putting his football career in context, the thought of his undergraduate academic career winding down is with him daily. “It’s been such a great experience,” he said of his time at Montana State. “As I come down to the end of my time here I think about it, yeah. I’m only taking two classes and helping out in an anatomy lab, so I can feel the end coming. It’s ’eird having to look at what I’m going to do next at the same time I’m looking at the med school process.”
What’s next for Herbert is a year “finding a job, hopefully in the medical field, maybe (in Bozeman),” he said. His future won’t involve football as a player, and he expects Saturday’s first Bobcat practice of spring football to hit him hard. “I’ll probably go watch practice Saturday and it will feel different,” he said. “I’ve watched my roommates go to winter conditioning, but I think (Saturday’s practice is) when it will really start sinking in.”
Future isn’t out of his future, either as a fan or as a professional. He will spend “plenty of time” in his hometown of Eugene, Oregon, next year watching one brother, Justin, play quarterback for the Oregon Ducks, while the other, Patrick, plays high school ball. “That will be fun,” he says. “Wherever I am, I’ll get back to watch my brothers play.”
And with a career in orthopedic medicine on his horizon, he may more than make up for the time he lost playing football to an elbow condition all those years ago by helping others in a similar spot.