GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls CMR football team is 3-1 on the year, and boasts the highest scoring offense in the state, averaging over 50 points per game.
Senior wide receiver and linebacker Tanner Grove is a big part of the reason why. With key starting roles on offense, defense, and special teams - Grove rarely takes a play off..
“I played mostly defense last year, so offense is new to me this year,” Grove said. “But I love taking in as much football as I can.”
It helps to have a super fan on the sidelines, cheering on his every move.
Tanner’s 12-year old brother Wyatt Grove - affectionately known as Wyatt the Brave - has spent half of his life battling a cancerous brain tumor.
He had his first tumor removed in 2018. But in 2022, it came back. He’s spent much of the last few months in Salt Lake City receiving treatments and infusions.
He’s recently lost the ability to walk, and his speech is affected.
"We're just doing some infusions, trying to get some of his symptoms under control, hoping that he can walk again,” said Wyatt’s mother Jessica. "We go back on Monday for another infusion, and then they're going to wait about six weeks, and then we'll go back and we'll see if it's working or what the next steps will be."
But when Wyatt is home in Great Falls there’s nothing he loves more than spending his Friday nights at Memorial Stadium watching Tanner and the Rustlers.
"It's really cool that Wyatt is here to watch Tanner,” said their father Cody Grove "He's really excited to go in the stands and cheer them on and see his brother. His brother's having a good year."
Jessica smiled as she looked at Wyatt.
“And he brags, everywhere we go,” she said. “Tells everyone about all the good things Tanner does.”
Tanner and Wyatt are close. They play video games together frequently and bond over their love of sports and football.
“Every time after a game, he's like, 'you look so big out there. You're so strong. You're so fast’,” Tanner said “We spend as much time as we can together. And it’s awesome, you know?”
Tanner is asked to do a lot on the football field and for his family. But he embraces the full schedule. He doesn’t have to look far for a reason to push himself harder.
“It's going to sound cheesy, but I kind of like think of (Wyatt) when I go into the field and play football,” Tanner said. “It’s like if my brother can beat this cancer, I can go out and beat our opponent.”
Tanner is a reserved team leader who prefers to let his play and actions speak for him. But he’s steadfast and vocal when it comes to supporting his brother and the rest of the Grove family.
"Tanner may not always say it outright. He's kind of a quiet individual when it comes to that, but deep down inside, he's fighting for Wyatt,” Cody said. “He's worked really hard in the off season. He's proven it so far this year. He's having a good year. But Wyatt's fight is inspiring Tanner. And there's a lot of other people to that are inspired by it. I’m inspired by it.”
The Grove brothers are battling different opponents. But make no mistake, they’re fighters. And they fight their battles together.
“If anybody's going through a tough time, just take a look at Wyatt,” Tanner said. "He's been told he might not live ever again, and he just always tried to man up and beat it.”