BILLINGS -- Pick any high school football site across the state, for the most part, and you’ll find what might be the loneliest job on the field.
“It’s kind of lonely. I always wish I was playing, of course. That’s my true passion, I love football,” Billings West senior Isaac Hein told MTN Sports before Friday's showdown against Bozeman.
Ever look past the end zone and see a long metal post with a guy sitting at the bottom of it? That’s Hein’s job. He’s West’s team videographer and at the top of that post sits a camera.
Scott Palin is the freshman head football coach and doubles up as the team's video coordinator.
“This will be our end zone view," Palin explained during setup, "... and then, we have a sideline view. We send it over to our sidelines and get instant replay every night.”
“Most of the time, I get off the bus and hang out with the guys for a little bit," Hein said of his pregame ritual. "Make sure everything gets loaded off (the bus). If luck’s on our side, it’ll take us about 30-45 minutes to get it set up.”
Palin is well aware of Hein's importance to the program.
“Not only does he do this, he helps me coach the freshmen," Palin said.
The thing is, this was never Hein's plan.
“I was told I couldn’t play football and didn’t know what to do," he said. "I wanted to be with the team because I’ve been playing with these guys since seventh grade, at least.”
He started dealing with the news after his head started bothering him a few years ago.
“It just hurt really bad, made me go blind, I couldn’t see that well," Hein recalled. "Went to a doctor at first, he said it was all psychosomatic, which means it’s all in my head. He thought I was making it up.”
So, Hein's freshman year he stuck to weight lifting. He said that became painful and made him feel light-headed. Sophomore year, he said he played for a week or two and tried switching from lineman to linebacker, but couldn’t take it anymore.
“I was messing up plays, I didn’t want anybody to get hurt, so I went and told (our athletic trainer) Kacie Kohlar. She took my helmet and told me to go get checked out because I told her my whole story," Hein said.
Soon after, Hein and his parents talked to a family friend, a neurosurgeon, who referred him to a specialist in Kalispell.
“She’s a nice lady and ended up doing surgery on me to make more room in the back (of my head)," which Hein said relieved the painful compression.
Now Hein is a senior, and boy did he think about dressing out again for the Bears.
“Everybody on the football team wanted me to play," he said fondly. "Then, I started talking to family members and friends and they told me I probably shouldn’t play because, why risk it for one year? But that was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, was say, ‘No, I can’t play.’”
So, now you’ll see Hein at the base of a towering camera or up in the press box shooting a sideline angle for coaches and teammates.
“The best part about it is, I get to be around the guys I’ve been playing with forever," he said. "I get to be with my friends."
"After school I get to fly a drone once in a while, that’s kind of fun, I get to go on trips with them, hang out, talk with them," he added. "Otherwise, I’d just go home, sit, play on my phone and do nothing, you know?”
Turns out, maybe it’s not the loneliest job on the field.