BILLINGS — Twenty-two years ago, Joe Glenn guided the 2001 Montana football team to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the Grizzlies would defeat Furman 13-6, returning home with Montana's second national title.
Today, Glenn lives outside of Boise, Idaho — enjoying retirement with his wife, Michelle, and keeping more than busy chasing a handful of grandkids.
But the colorful coach hasn't skipped a beat and has kept a close eye on his former team's run through the playoffs, and Montana's quarterfinal game against Furman a few weeks ago brought back fond memories of that 2001 title game against the Paladins.
“When you do get a chance to win a championship, whether it's in the conference or whether it was a national championship, it makes it a little bit special. And you remember the players, you remember their families, you remember just everything about them," Glenn told MTN Sports during a virtual interview. Glenn won back-to-back NCAA Division II titles with Northern Colorado in 1996 and 1997, and then led the Griz to the Division 1-AA (now FCS) national title in 2001.
"That’s why we're so excited for this game this week, for all the Montana people to come together and hook it up," Glenn continued. "And may the last person out of Missoula turn the lights out. Everybody I talk to is headed down there to Texas."
Marty Mornhinwheg, a Hall of Fame quarterback who played for the Grizzlies from 1980-84, also shared stories and laughs with Glenn during the virtual interview. Glenn was Montana's quarterbacks coach during Mornhinwheg's stellar playing career.
“Whenever I called Coach Glenn — you know, he'd be coaching at Montana or Wyoming or South Dakota — I would call and get his assistant," Mornhinweg said, "and I'd say, 'Coach Joe Glenn, please.' They'd say, 'Who's calling?' I said, 'You just tell him it's the best quarterback he ever coached.' And I think you knew who it was.”
“I knew it was you," Glenn said, laughing.
Glenn was the last coach to guide the Griz to a national championship, and he'll be cheering on his old team Sunday when Montana plays South Dakota State for the FCS national championship in Frisco, Texas. Glenn's recipe for Grizzly success is simple and similar to his strategy in Chattanooga 22 years ago.
“The strength of our team was in fact our offensive line," he said. "We had a smart quarterback in John Edwards who would protect the football and throw the ball where the coaching wanted it thrown, so I’m saying — dance with the one that brung you is an old expression — but get the ball to the guys like Junior Bergen or our tailback that if you've got a bread and butter play or a bread and butter series, get it out and do what got us here.”
Glenn retired from coaching in 2015, stepping down as head coach at his alma mater South Dakota. Prior to that, he was head coach at Wyoming from 2003-08, leading the Cowboys to their first bowl game victory in 38 years. During his three years as head Griz coach from 2000-02, Glenn went 39-6, compiling a program-best winning percentage of 87%.
As for his prediction on the championship game, Glenn likes the Griz in a close one 24-21. He's so confident he broke into song, a longtime Joe Glenn trademark.