BILLINGS — Injuries ultimately zapped former Montana Gatorade football player of the year Nathan Dick of his availability on the gridiron at Rocky Mountain College.
Dick, the Battlin' Bears quarterback, dealt with separate broken feet in back-to-back years. He then tore his Achilles tendon and ACL in separate seasons, effectively ending his football career.
College football was basically a full-time job, so Dick, who also starred at quarterback at Billings Senior High School, needed something to manufacture some cash, even while rehabbing his injuries.
“I talked to a couple guys at Rocky and they're like, 'Yeah, dude. We ref basketball.' I said, 'Ref? I don't know if I want to do that.' They said it's good money and can make your own schedule," Dick said. "So I was broke. I had no money. I called my assigner for high school and was like, 'Hey, do you have anything? I'll limp up and down the court. I'm Just broke. I need to get my girlfriend something for Christmas. I need some money.'"
Reffing basketball has also helped scratch a competitive itch that lingered around for Dick after finishing up his playing career.
“It's just like playing. No one has ever played a perfect game. I think that's the biggest thing is chasing that perfect game even though you'll never get there," Dick said. "It's really a grind. I watch a lot of film doing basketball, so I relate that from my past experiences with football."
For a guy that’s had so many injuries to the lower extremities, was there any hesitation running up and down the hardwood?
“I do a lot of warming up before games. The old guys kind of make fun of me because I'm doing warmups just like they are. They'll say, 'When I was your age I'd just put my stuff on and I was ready to go.' Well, I've got about four scars that prove I need to warm up," Dick said.
"Just taking that extra preparation and treating it like a job, treating it like a professional that I'm going to be in the best possible shape possible for these guys, for the Frontier Conference and for myself, also."
Dick is refereeing both high school and Frontier Conference games now, and he’s hoping his rapid rise to the collegiate ranks is just the beginning.
“I like to stay short-term goals, but in the next 2-3 years just get as many college games as I can, and then hopefully in 3-4 years go to a camp in Spokane. That's kind of how you get hired on for the college stuff is you have to go to the assigner's camps and have them look at you. I think in the next 3-4 years try to get on the GNAC and do some D-II stuff," Dick said.
Life after football seems to be treating Dick well so far.