MISSOULA — Some of the state's top high school quarterbacks made their way to MCPS Stadium on Thursday morning for Marty Mornhinweg's quarterback camp.
Those who attended were treated to a special guest as one of the co-coaches of the clinic in NFL veteran Jeff Garcia. Garcia was a four-time Pro Bowler with the San Franciso 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the early 2000s. He spent 11 years in the NFL after going undrafted out of San Jose State and spending five seasons in the Canadian Football League.
So Garcia offered his tutelage and expertise to a number of high school quarterbacks who were there working out.
"And so to be able to go back and give back, inspire, motivate, share a message that, hey, you too can fulfill and live a dream," Garcia said. "I mean look at me, I’m not the biggest guy, the strongest guy. All those things that I battled throughout my life growing up and proving people wrong, they can do that as well."
In total, 15 quarterbacks attended Thursday's camp, which is run by former Montana Grizzly quarterback and NFL coaching veteran Marty Mornhinweg, who coached Garcia in the pros. Those who attended included Missoula Sentinel's Zac Crews, JJ Dolan and Riley Allen, Missoula Big Sky's Caleb Hren, Drew Martin and Reese Johnson, Reed Harris of Great Falls High, Helena High's Kaden Huot, Billings West's Isaiah Claunch, Polson's Jarrett Wilson, Kellen McClure of St. Ignatius, Missoula Loyola's Aiden Round and Keenan Russell, Frenchtown's Kellen Klimpel and Glendive's Parker Buckley.
Crews was all-state at tight end and defensive end for Sentinel High last year, but the senior-to-be will be the Spartans starting QB this coming fall. As a sophomore in 2019, Crews battled for the starting quarterback spot at Sentinel with Dayton Bay. Bay won the job and Sentinel's coaching staff ultimately slotted Crews in at tight end and defensive end that year thanks to his talent and athleticism. So Thursday's camp gave him a chance to hone more of his quarterbacking skills while working with his teammates and others to push him.
"I like to keep JJ on his toes and Riley (too) because competitive spirit is always good in the team," Crews said. "Keeps everybody at a high level in practice and stuff so I tell them don’t take it easy on me, make sure you’re pushing me and I push them and I have to keep that energy I had with Dayton Bay my sophomore year."
Huot recently committed to the Grizzlies to continue his college career. Seen by many as the state's top QB and overall prospect, Huot is entering his third year as Helena's starter, but still found plenty to learn and work on at the camp.
"It’s awesome, I love getting tips from these guys," Huot said. "Marty and Jeff are great coaches and competing with these Montana quarterbacks, there’s a lot of competition out here and it’s really fun.
"The Griz are awesome, I love the coaches over there, the facilities, love the atmosphere. Missoula is awesome to be in and I’m excited."
Claunch has also made the most of his summer.
After leading the Golden Bears to the State AA title game last year against Sentinel, Claunch, like many others, has been busy traveling to camps, including one recently down in Los Angeles. This comes after the 2020 camps were all canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So for Claunch, he was excited to be among some of Montana's best competing once again.
"It’s been very eye-opening to get coached by these legends from these football programs," Claunch said. "It’s really cool to get this kind of coaching from different levels of football. (Camps are) definitely what I missed. There’s a lot going on right now but I love it. I love the atmosphere and the football."
Garcia joked about his time knowing former Montana Griz legend Dave Dickenson when they were teammates in the CFL. At the end of the day, he was happy to be out helping the athletes work at their craft with goals in mind after losing those opportunities a year ago.
"Getting out here, working with the young players, giving them a vision, giving them knowledge, getting them out there just competing once again," Garcia said. "And knowing that they have an opportunity to play for something."
"Being a leader within the locker room, being a leader in the classroom, being a leader in the community, all those things that I will push upon these kids is it’s not just becoming a better football player it’s becoming a better person in general. What do you have to do to become that guy that is a different maker, that is a game changer, that is someone other people can lean on and that you're accountable for your actions and doing the right thing and that's really what I want to share with these young men."