(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. This week, we profile the defensive linemen.)
Defensive backs: No. 5 – Shann Schillinger, Baker; No. 4 – Greg Carothers, Helena Capital; No. 3 – Kane Ioane, Billings Skyview; No. 2 – Colt Anderson, Butte; No. 1 – Tim Hauck, Big Timber.
No. 5 defensive lineman – Kroy Biermann, Hardin
The University of Montana has boasted dozens of defensive stalwarts over the years, from all-time leading tackler Vince Huntsberger to tackles-for-loss and sack leader Zack Wagenmann to Karl Stein and his 20 career interceptions in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But only one has earned the honor of Division I-AA/FCS national defensive player of the year, Buck Buchanan award-winner Kroy Biermann.
Kroy Biermann stat sheet
Biermann was a talent on each side of the football at Hardin, earning Class A all-conference honors as a fullback, plus all-state accolades at the linebacker position in both his junior and senior years of 2002 and 2003. He also served as the Bulldogs’ punter and kicker. A selection for the Montana East-West Shrine Game, Biermann was an eight-time letter-winner at Hardin, finding runner-up at the state wrestling tournament twice. He was also a fine hurdler.
College athletics ran in Biermann’s family — his father played college basketball and sisters Krista and Kelsey each competed in college volleyball — and Kroy Biermann was believed to be the first football player from Hardin to earn a scholarship with the Montana Grizzlies. He made an immediate impact as a true freshman, tallying 22 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three sacks and a fumble recovery, which he returned for a touchdown against Sam Houston State. Biermann and the Grizzlies played for the FCS national championship, but fell to James Madison, 31-21. He had 48 total tackles as a sophomore, duplicating his seven tackles for loss and three sacks, but broke onto the national scene his junior season. Biermann compiled 78 tackles, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, and led the Griz with 13.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. He earned UM’s Golden Helmet award as the program’s hardest hitter, while adding first-team all-Big Sky Conference and second-team all-American honors to his resume. He was also a finalist for the Buck Buchanan award, given annually to the FCS defensive player of the year. Biermann did one better as a senior, becoming the first Montana Grizzly to win the prestigious Buchanan award, as well as first-team all-American honors, with 72 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 15 sacks, which was second-best in the nation. He finished his career with 220 total tackles, as well as 45 tackles for loss and 32 sacks, both of which were No. 2 in UM history at the time. Biermann hellped the Grizzlies to a 43-10 record in his four years, all of which ended in the FCS playoffs, including a runner-up finish in 2004 and a semifinalist effort in 2006.
Biermann was a fifth-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2008 NFL Draft, totaling 21 tackles and two sacks his rookie season. 2014 was arguably his best year as a pro, with a career-high 75 tackles to go with 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He signed with the Buffalo Bills in 2016 but was released weeks later. He ended his NFL career with 333 tackles, 23.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a pair of interceptions for touchdowns.
He married The Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kim Zolciak in 2011, making multiple appearances on the show. The couple was given a spin-off, Don’t Be Tardy, which premiered in 2012.
… on Biermann
Former Sidney coach Mike Gear: “A real tribute to (Biermann) is that he didn’t play on a great high school team. They were pretty good, but for kids that have ability and work hard, maybe their team struggles, it’s a real tribute to those kinds of kids that, ‘OK, when I get to that step I have to make myself better,’ and that’s what he did. He’s a lot like (former Glendive and Montana State offensive lineman) Mike Person in that he finally got into a position where he could excel with his abilities and he made the most of it.
“You had to game plan against him because he played inside linebacker and you never knew where he was coming from. You knew he was coming, I mean, it was part of their defense, he was coming on just about every single play, it was just hard to figure out where he was going to come from. That took a lot of work because he definitely did a lot of damage in your backfield if you didn’t get him picked up.”
Former Montana Grizzly teammate Colt Anderson: “It’s amazing. The best coverage is a good pass rush, and we had that with Kroy and several others. When he was in there, we knew the ball had to come out and that the quarterback couldn’t hold it that long, and if he did, we had to make him pay. It was either going to be us in the secondary making a play, or Kroy creating a sack. He was a phenomenal player with an extremely hard work ethic, and he made our team better, not only on the field but off.”
Montana Grizzly football coach Bobby Hauck: “The first thing that comes to mind is fierce competitors (when thinking of Biermann and former Griz safety Tim Hauck.) They were guys that were all in to win, do whatever they could for the football team. Off the field they were both enjoyable guys to be around. Despite the disparity in position, they’re good guys and have a lot in common.”