(Editor’s note: MTN Sports began recognizing some of the best football players in Montana history on July 2 with the launch of the #MTTop40. The series started with defensive backs and will run eight weeks, featuring one position each week, concluding with quarterbacks the week of Aug. 20-24 to coincide with Montana’s high school football season opener.)
Defensive backs: No. 5 – Shann Schillinger, Baker.
No. 4 defensive back – Greg Carothers, Helena Capital
Some of Montana’s best football players have come from the Capital City or had impressive careers in what-is-now the Pac-12 Conference. Greg Carothers did both, helping Helena Capital to a state championship in one year and the University of Washington to a Rose Bowl win the next.
Greg Carothers stat sheet
Carothers, who starred at Helena Capital in the late 1990s, is widely regarded as one of the best high school safeties Montana has ever produced. He was a two-time first-team all-state selection for the Bruins and was named the 1999 Class AA defensive MVP when Capital completed an undefeated season with a 53-24 win over Billings West in the State AA championship game, leading former Golden Bears coach Paul Klaboe to call Carothers the fastest player he ever coached against. Carothers, who actually passed for a touchdown during the state championship win, also played wide receiver and running back during his career. During his senior season, he recorded 86 tackles, four interceptions, seven sacks and six blocked kicks on defense. Carothers was also a basketball and track and field standout at Capital, where he won state titles in the 300-meter hurdles in 1998 and 1999.
One of the top safety recruits in the nation, Carothers continued his career at the University of Washington. He appeared in 11 games as a freshman, starting the final three at strong safety, including the Rose Bowl, where he forced and recovered a fumble in the Huskies’ 34-24 win over Purdue. He earned freshman all-American honors from www.Rivals.com, and Carothers was a full-time starter in the Huskies’ secondary by his sophomore season. He started every game in 2001, finishing second on the team with 72 total tackles. He missed one game with an injury his junior season but still finished with 84 total tackles to garner honorable mention all-Pac-10 recognition. A team captain, Carothers moved to outside linebacker for his senior season, where he recorded 57 tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss and four sacks. He also had two interceptions and one fumble return for touchdown. Carothers totaled 240 tackles, including 23.5 for loss, seven sacks, four fumble recovers and three interceptions during his career at UW.
Carothers had various stints playing professional football, first attending training camp with the San Francisco 49ers in 2004. He had one successful season – 58 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception – in NFL Europe before returning stateside. He also served stints with the Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills.
… on Carothers:
Former Helena High football coach Tony Arntson: “He stood out right away. He was such a tremendous athlete, but he had it all. That’s what made him a great football player, not just his athletic ability, but he had a linebacker mentality. He played defensive back as a nasty, nasty hitter. He was one of those relentless players that played from the snap all the way to the whistle. Obviously he was a great leader for their program, but he was a tremendous kid to coach against and watch play other opponents.
“Once he got to wherever he was going, it didn’t matter, mostly because of his work ethic. He had a great work ethic, which you just watched through high school. You watched him compete in track and compete in football. He was a great competitor, so you knew that no matter where he went, he would be as good as he could be. That’s exactly what he did at Washington.”