BUTTE — It was clear skies for Thursday’s West all-stars practice at Montana Tech where 50 of Montana’s best players prepared for the 72nd Montana East-West Shrine Game.
Off to the right of the field, and under the only shady spot in the entire stadium, stood Bob Schulte, 89, taking his time out of the sun.
Schulte has spent his fair amount of time practicing for the Shrine Game like the high schoolers that ran drills in front of him. He played in the very first one in 1947.
“In 1947 there were 22 players on each side, and I don’t believe the Shriners knew what got into them,” Schulte recalled from the inaugural game in Great Falls. “It’s been something that I’ve always participated in.”
There have been 70 East-West Shrine Games since Schulte’s first, and he has attended nearly all of them, partly due to his family’s connection to the game.
Schulte has seven children, and, from 1974 to 2011, he has had his legacy represented in games over three decades — from his sons playing football to his granddaughters cheerleading.
On Thursday, Schulte was honored as the special guest at the West all-stars’ practice, donning his No. 13 jersey that has since been retired.
“There never has been another one. It goes 12 to 14, there’s no number (13) there at all,” Schulte said. “That is a feather in my hat, really.”
After cracking a few jokes and speaking of his time with the Shrine Game, Schulte had a message for the players.
“Always remember what you’re playing for,” he said. “There’s no losers. Everyone wins, those kids in Spokane mainly. I still try to do things I’m not supposed to be doing, but that’s my attitude: I never give up and that’s probably why I’m still here.”