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Keep on truckin’: Jill and Darwin Kinyon a vital part of Montana football program

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Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 04, 2024

FRISCO, Texas — It took a lot of work for the Montana football team to advance to the FCS title game. Fans see the players, coaches and product on the field. But it takes just as much work behind the scenes from support staff.

And one husband and wife team are a vital part of the Grizzly program.

Darwin and Jill Kinyon are the first people to arrive on a Grizzly road trip and the last ones to leave. They’ve driven the equipment truck since 2014, transporting pads, benches, suitcases and much more for the UM football team.

“The company I worked for, Wilson Logistics came to me and asked me if I wanted to do this,” Darwin said. “I couldn’t say yes fast enough.”

From there the Kinyons quickly became part of the team. They’re there to greet the players and coaches at every road stop, handing out hugs, high fives and candy bars.

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Jill Kinyon hugs a Griz player as they arrive in Frisco, Texas, on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024.

Jill has a signature saying.

“When a player brings his bag to the back of the trailer, I always ask them 'Do you have your lucky socks',” she says. “So a lot of players don’t know my name but they know me as the sock lady or the candy bar lady.”

The trip to Frisco started before the New Year and ended earlier this week when the Kinyons unloaded the trailer and dropped it off at Toyota Stadium. The weather was nice, so the driving was smooth sailing. But that’s not always the case.

“We’ve had encounters with inclement weather,” Jill said. “Last year going to Fargo for a game against North Dakota State, we had a lot of snow and ice and ground blizzards. It was not fun.”

But Darwin keeps a steady hand on the wheel after a career hitting deadlines and safely transporting cargo.

“They tell me a location and a time and I’ve never been late,” Darwin said. “Knock on wood, but I’ve never, ever been late.”

For big games, Jill will send back pictures for the Montana athletic department to post on social media. And it’s no surprise, but this trip here to Frisco has drawn significant interest from Griz Nation. So much so that Darwin and Jill have become minor celebrities among fans.

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The Grizzly football equipment truck arrives in Texas.

“It is interesting to see comments and the amount of likes those posts get,” Jill said. “It’s heart warming to see the support. And we love it when people come up and honk and wave and do that kind of stuff. Darwin can tell when someone is looking at the truck at night. They’ll slow down and you can tell they’re snapping pictures.”

But the unique part about the Kinyons is not what they do, but who they are. They’re life long Grizzly fans who have been married for 28 years. They’re incredible ambassadors for Montana athletics who are adored by fans, players and coaches alike for their hard work and endearing personalities.

They grow close with certain teams and players and feel real sadness when their favorites graduate.

“There’s been a lot of tight-knit teams,” Jill said. “But there’s something extra special about this year’s team. They pick each other up when things are tough.”

That same can be said for Jill and Darwin Kinyon. They keep each other going.

Trip after trip. Mile after mile.

“We’re two peas in a pod,” Darwin said. “She’ll knit afghans while I’m driving, get me snacks or tell me stories. We have a lot of fun together on these trips.”