HELENA – Troy Purcell knew December would be a whirlwind.
The latest head coach of the Carroll College football program has only held the title for 11 days, but in that short period of time has driven all across Montana recruiting future Fighting Saints.
Purcell took a break, albeit a quick one, from the recruiting trail Saturday morning to meet with some of the Carroll College faithful, allowing him to meet new faces and re-connecting with old ones, while discussing his short-term and long-term goals for the program.
“It’s very, very important to develop the ties with the contributors and supporters at Carroll and Carroll athletics and Carroll football,” Purcell said Saturday morning. “It was a great event (Saturday morning) and I really appreciate (Carroll College athletic director) Charlie Gross putting it together so I could introduce myself and give the vision of where the program is going and the excitement right now.”
“You take it for granted when you’ve had a coach (like Mike Van Diest) here for 20 years, that coach has so many personal contacts himself, so when you bring somebody new in you have to orchestrate some of those opportunities for him to meet people, for people to hear what his vision is and what he’s about,” said Gross. “Anything we can do like that in the near future will be beneficial for Troy, our student-athletes and our football program.”
Purcell impressed Gross when the two first met in November, and that impression hasn’t wavered since the latter introduced his new football coach on Dec. 7.
“What’s exciting is that there’s immediacy to his action. He accepted the job that Thursday (Dec. 6), we had the press conference Friday (Dec. 7) and starting Saturday (Dec. 8) he was on the road recruiting and hasn’t stopped since,” said Gross. “The number of contacts that he has, the number of people that know him, the fact he has so much familiarity with Carroll College, the community of Helena, the state of Montana and even our geographic region outside the state where we recruit, that’s really exciting.”
The effort has paid off. Purcell, who joked Saturday about his Twitter expertise, has showcased some of his early signees, the likes of Helena High’s Zach Spiroff and Billings Central’s Duncan Kraft, sticking to his plan of building the program with local talents.
“We want to get Montana kids, that’s our No. 1 priority, get the core back, not that there’s anything wrong with kids from other states, but I think traditionally it’s been a lot of Montana kids having excellence here,” said Purcell.
Purcell discussed the recruiting efforts, the excitements and challenges, on Saturday morning, answering questions and addressing any concerns. One guest mentioned utilizing Carroll’s impressive academic track record to convince student-athletes to join the program, something Purcell said he plans to do.
Still, one of the main talking points in his recruiting pitches revolves around Purcell himself, a job interview of sorts, to convince parents and their sons to put their trust in him and the Carroll College program, like so many have done before.
“Mike Van Diest is an outstanding coach and an outstanding recruiter and (parents) had a lot of trust in him, which is understandable because I know what kind of man he is, a man of character,” he said. “I have to sell myself, you know what I mean? Parents and kids have read up on me, what I’m about and where I came from, so getting into their house to know the parents and know the athletes that were offered. It’s trying to bring that excitement and continuing the tradition of excellence here.”
As the holidays approach, the excitement continues to build as Purcell puts in windshield time, though visiting with dozens of families does leave him thinking of his own. Purcell’s wife, Krista, and daughter, Brooklyn, will remain in Idaho until the summer, allowing Brooklyn to finish school.
Still, returning to the town he was raised in, the school he attended and taking over the program he played for, has Purcell feeling blessed.
“Kind of spinning right now. I wish my family was here a little closer. That’s hard having Brooklyn and Krista that far away. But the excitement is fun, getting to know the kids on the recruiting trail right now has been pretty exciting,” said Purcell. “Being able to say, ‘that’s the guy I want’ or ‘that’s a guy I need’ and getting to know everybody and getting back to Helena, driving down the same roads that I used to drive 30 years ago, walking across the same field that I used to sweat on, walking the halls is a special time to come back, so that part is pretty dang exciting.”