BOZEMAN – You won’t meet many Montana State football fans bigger than Eric Hamburg. The 14-year-old from Bozeman has been a loyal supporter of the Bobcats for as long as he can remember.
“Since I’ve been alive,” Hamburg said when asked when his Bobcat football fandom began. “Growing up in Montana you don’t have many football teams, you have two options: the Cats and the Griz. And growing up in Bozeman it was just easier that way.”
Earlier this week Hamburg got to live out a dream. Bridger Orthopedics, the official physicians of the Bobcats, held an essay contest to have writers explain what football and sports mean to them. Hamburg’s essay won. His prize? Getting to practice with Montana State for a day. And he got a lot of tips from guys like Kevin Kassis on his position of wide receiver.
“Just like placement, lining up on the right side, just like the fundamentals of wide receiver,” said Hamburg.
Those tips came in handy as he went one-on-one with corner back Tyrel Thomas, burning him on a fly route for a touchdown.
Hamburg’s family bleeds blue and gold, his father works at the university and his sister Emma used to be a Cats cheerleader. That has turned Eric into a die-hard fan.
“He sees a player on the field, he gets to know them, he knows all their stats inside and out, memorizes their number, can tell you anything about them,” said Kristin Hamburg, Eric’s mother. “But then he also knows who they are as a person, like what they are going to school for, if their family is from here, where they grew up, did they always like football?”
But not every Cat Saturday can be a good one. On Oct. 18, 2014, Montana State was playing Weber State at home during family weekend, and the Hamburg family received terrible news. Eric’s cousin Matt committed suicide.
“Everything happened so fast and it was a rough time for the whole family, and football was a way for Eric to get back to normal,” said Kristin.
And to this day Eric uses football as a way to connect with his cousin.
“When he passed away, the way I didn’t think about that and kind of just got out was football,” said Eric. “He liked sports and watching me play, so it’s nice to know that he’s watching up there.”
Eric was given an official team jersey by the Cats, the No. 84. He’s going to wear it to the home games in Section 112 where his family has season tickets. And every day he’s going to work hard to be able to one day where that jersey on the field.
“He works out at The Pitt with Dane Fletcher, because he’s a football player, and the things that he does with nutrition and exercise is kind of so he’ll become a better football player come the season. It’s definitely a passion for him, he loves to read about it, watch it and work out towards being a football player,” said Kristin.
Maybe one day that work will pay off and Eric will get to suit up for his favorite team and solidify himself as a Bobcat for life.