(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.)
No. 3 defensive back – Kane Ioane, Billings Skyview
There’s plenty of accolades to go around — team MVP awards, all-conference honors, conference player of the year recognition, among others — but the pinnacle in college football is that all-American nod. Nobody in Montana State history did it like Kane Ioane, who became the Bobcats’ first, and only, four-time all-American in the early 2000s.
Kane Ioane stat sheet
Playing on both sides of the ball, Ioane was an all-conference running back and defensive back at Billings Skyview High School in the late 1990s. He earned all-state honors as a senior safety when he recorded four interceptions despite playing much of the year with a cast on his hand. Ioane, who was also a standout basketball player, was selected to play in the Montana East-West Shrine Game and Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl.
After graduating from Skyview in 2000, Ioane joined Montana State, where he would have an immediate impact and become one of the greatest players in program history. The Bobcats went 0-11 during Ioane’s true freshman season in 2000, when he recorded 98 total tackles, six sacks and three interceptions. Ioane was critical to MSU’s turnaround, and by the time he was a junior the Bobcats were competing for Big Sky Conference championships. They ended their 16-year losing streak to rival Montana in 2002 with a 10-7 win in Missoula and shared back-to-back conference titles in 2002 and 2003. Ioane was a first-team all-conference selection both years, garnering defensive MVP honors as a senior. All told, Ioane finished his MSU playing career with 471 total tackles, which ranks second in the Big Sky Conference’s official record books (the NCAA began recognizing tackles as an official stat in 2000). He added 10 career interceptions and five career fumble recoveries and is the only Bobcat in program history to be a four-time all-American.
After a brief attempt at an NFL career, Ioane returned to Bozeman to join the Montana State coaching staff. He started as a student assistant in 2004 and joined the staff in a full-time capacity in 2005. Ioane spent most of his time on the MSU staff coaching the linebackers, but he also served as the defensive coordinator in 2015 and the assistant head coach in 2016. He left MSU in 2017 to become the quality control analyst at the University of Washington.
… on Ioane:
Montana State sports information director Bill Lamberty: “The thing I really always think about Kane is his first few weeks on campus, you always heard people talking about Kane Ioane, telling him, ‘Good job,’ in practice and during drills. I remember after about two or three weeks, before we had even got to our first game, (former Montana State coach) Mike Kramer joked that it was a week into camp before he knew (Ioane’s) first name wasn’t ‘Good job,’ because everybody said, ‘Good job, Kane Ioane.’ That’s a lasting memory I have, because what an impression he made really early in his time in the program.
“Even then, it was very uncommon to have a four-year starter who was a kid that came in as a true freshman. It started happening a little more as recruiting amped up, but it was very unusual at that time. For him to come in and establish himself as a great player right off the bat was really unique, really unique.”
“He was a perfect fit for Mike Kramer’s and (former Montana State defensive coordinator) Pete Kwiatkowski’s system, because he was a physical safety that could get into the line of scrimmage, make a read and explode into a play. He really played like a linebacker, but he also had the great coverage skills. He was a tremendous guy playing on the back ends, such a versatile player. Until you saw him in games, I don’t think you appreciated how physical he was, but he was a tremendously physical player. I’ve always thought that maybe a big part of that came from his mother because she was a rodeo star, and just a tremendous character and really tough-minded person, Rhonda. It was so much fun to watch him for those four years, but he really exploded onto the scene. We had known about him for a long time because his family was friends with Bruce Parker, who was our longtime and legendary sports information director and assistant athletic director, so we always kept our eye on Kane and we were rooting like crazy that he would end up here. It was a marriage made in heaven.”
Former Montana State teammate Arie Grey: “Kane was special right when he walked into campus at Montana State. That was my senior year. I feel very fortunate I got the opportunity to play with Kane, because he was a heck of a player. Kane had ‘it.’ When he walked in, you kind of knew, ‘Hey man, this guy’s got it figured out, he knows what he’s doing.’ He was a detail-oriented guy, whether it was through drills, weight room, on the field, practice, whatever it was, he was always the first guy to be there and the last guy to leave – what a great attitude. It was neat to see him grow his freshman year, you know, true freshman going out there starting, you would have thought he was a senior. Then to follow that up with four all-American (honors), that’s pretty rare. That doesn’t happen often for a guy from Montana.
“The thing about Kane is he’s just a grinder, a worker. You knew that he was eventually going to keep building, and when he was at Montana State as a coach he did such a phenomenal job with their linebackers. Now he’s at the University of Washington, what he’s done, climbing those ranks, it’s a neat thing to see and say, ‘Hey, I played with this guy.’ He’s really a guy who understands the game of football. He understands position-specific stuff and schematic things. It’s pretty cool to see that he did that. I’m excited for him, I love him to death, he was a fun player to play with. I wish I would have had a few more years with him, because they were pretty dang successful those four years Kane was there.”