BILLINGS — Nathan Dick was one of the most electrifying football players in the state at Billings Senior in 2016 en route to winning Montana’s Gatorade player of the year and eventually landing at the University of Montana.
Fast forward five years and Dick is just two starts into the season at Rocky Mountain College, but he’s already set career highs for passing yards and touchdowns.
That’s because Dick’s recent past has been injury riddled. But his lack of time on the field never swayed his confidence.
“For one thing, it’s just emotional. You try to do the right stuff, you try to do the right stuff, and at the end of the day maybe it just doesn’t work out. That’s just life. You can do all the right things and do all these things and sometimes it doesn’t work out, and that’s OK," Dick said. "I tell a lot of people that coming back from injury is 10% physical and 90% emotional. You’ve got to believe that you can do what you can do and you’ve got to trust yourself that you can do that, and that’s the biggest thing for me.”
Dick dealt with a broken bone in each of his feet that sidelined him for two separate seasons, and then tore his Achilles tendon, prematurely ending his third season at Rocky. That's three surgeries and three separate rehabs, but he’s still the same jaw-dropping play maker and leader that fans remember.
“He’s everything you want in a quarterback. He’ll get on you when you’re not doing something right. He leads by example," Rocky head coach Chris Stutzriem said. "He’s a fierce competitor, which we all love. He brings the best out in everybody with his smile.”
There’s a positive to Dick’s time on the sidelines, however. Not only was he able to see the field from a different angle and study from afar, but he found it to be a silver lining of sorts in the relationships he’s built with his teammates.
“Being sidelined as much as I have, you really understand people. You get to know people because you’re not just the football player. You’re not just the quarterback. Everyone here is people," Dick said. "I think that’s something that I’ve really learned is to value relationships, understanding someone’s story and what type of background are they from and stuff like that. I just think that’s probably the biggest thing that I love so much about being on this team, is how tight knit it is. A lot of college football teams have cliques and all that stuff, but it’s just nice to be on a team where everyone has the same goal.”
As for Rocky, the Battlin’ Bears are off to a 2-0 start behind a pair of stellar performances from Dick, including his three total touchdowns in a Sept. 4 win at No. 19 College of Idaho. After a few down years, Rocky appears to have turned a corner.
“A lot of the work around here that gets put in behind the scenes, some of it’s starting to blossom a little bit. It’s just really nice to see," said Dick.
Injuries may have sidelined Dick for most of his college career, but he’s been a human highlight reel for the Bears in 2021, something they’ll hope continues as they hit the meat of their Frontier Conference schedule.