MISSOULA — It's ironic how life plays out in certain aspects.
For three Montana Grizzlies who traveled across the country to Missoula to play college football at UM, they now are rewarded with a trip to their home state of Texas, as quarterback Clifton McDowell, linebacker Riley Wilson and offensive lineman Declan McCabe all head back to the Lone Star State with their teammates in tow with a chance to win an FCS national championship.
"I was kind of glad bringing the Montana guys back down to the home state," McDowell said. "Hope we have a good time out there in Frisco and come back with the dub."
Wilson, a native of Prosper, Texas, will be the closest to home of the three and almost in his backyard, as Prosper, like Frisco, is part of the Dallas metro area.
Wilson will be playing around 10-15 minutes away from where he grew up.
"Going into the season, you know, my dad and my family just joking around, 'Hey, we're driving by the Toyota Stadium. Hey, you know, that's where you got to end up,'" Wilson said. "You know, and have everyone down there. So you know, knowing how close we got and how it's all unfolding is going to be awesome."
Wilson even played at the Toyota Stadium before back when he was competing at Hawaii at the New Mexico Bowl in 2020.
For McDowell and McCabe, the trek is a little farther, as McCabe hails from Waco, which is about two hours away, while McDowell's hometown of Spring is about four hours from Frisco as part of the Houston area.
"I mean, really excited," McCabe said. "Obviously, it's the biggest game that you could ever imagine. It's something you dream about as a kid. But to be able to go home essentially to do so, it's pretty full circle. I mean, we'll be practicing I'm sure at a high school I played against a few times and, you know, a bunch of family there. So beyond excited. It'll be really good time."
All three are in agreement on what folks traveling to Montana should do for sure.
"Whataburger, that's the place to go, better than In-N-Out and all the other places," McDowell said. "Whataburger."
"You gotta go to Whataburger," Wilson said. "Honey butter chicken biscuit. You gotta get that."
"Whataburger is my favorite by far," McCabe added. "I mean, I'm a big guy. So I usually get like two patty melts, large fry and like a large Dr. Pepper or something."
But we also had to get their take on their ideal BBQ dish in a state known to have some of the best around.
"Gotta go ribs. Then I get ribs, barbecue baked beans, coleslaw, cornbread," Wilson said. "And then I add a little bit of barbecue sauce on it. And then if I'm really going crazy, I'm gonna get me a chopped brisket sandwich. Then I'm really stuffed, and smoked sausage too. And then after that, man, take a nap. It's time for a nap."
"In Texas, they do like a sampler, that's their main course," McCabe said. "So, big brisket guy. I like ribs. A little bit mac and cheese, some coleslaw is a hit or miss. Texas toast is where it's at for sure. And then sausage, chop it up and throw it on plate, maybe some pickles on the side. But yeah, that's the ideal."
"I'm a rib type of guy," McDowell added. "I like ribs, brisket, black-eyed peas and probably go with some corn or macaroni."
With many fans, friends and more expected to attend, it's a fun return home for this trio, and should they accomplish their mission, it'll be a Texas-sized trip to remember for the Grizzlies.
"It's crazy. You know, going back home and just having so many people go, 'You guys are going to Toyota Stadium,' and just it's going to be an unbelievable environment," Wilson said. "It's just something I'm really blessed to have, just for me to be able to look in the stands and just see my whole family. You know, my grandparents are gonna be able to come, so it's gonna be awesome."
"It's real special. I mean, it's a once in a lifetime thing," McDowell said. "Not too many people can say this, they're going to play the national championship. So just enjoying the moment, embracing the moment."