(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. We’ve wrapped up the defense, also profiling the defensive linemen and linebackers. Now, we switch to the offense and start with the offensive linemen.)
Offensive lineman: No. 5 – Barry Darrow, Great Falls CMR.
No. 4 offensive lineman – Mike Person, Glendive
From an all-state high school career at Glendive to an all-American senior season at Montana State to an eight-year NFL career, few Montanans can match the accumulated accolades of Mike Person.
Mike Person stat sheet
While at Glendive, Person was a three-time all-conference selection in the Eastern A, twice earning offensive lineman of the year recognition. He was an all-state choice in both his junior and senior seasons and was voted the Red Devils’ team MVP as a senior. Person was selected to play in both the Montana East-West Shrine Game and the Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl.
As solid as he was at Glendive, Person blossomed at Montana State. After a redshirt year in 2006, he broke into the Bobcats’ starting lineup in 2007, starting the first eight games of the season at right tackle before an injury cut his debut season short. Person recovered in 2008, starting all 12 games and earning honorable mention all-conference honors while helping MSU lead the Big Sky Conference in rushing yards. He was even better in 2009, starting all 11 games and earning first-team all-conference recognition. Person finished off his career with a stellar season in 2010, in which he was voted a first-team all-American while helping MSU to the Big Sky Conference championship.
Person was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft and is entering his eighth year in the league. A career backup, Person got his first starting opportunity in 2015, starting 14 games at center for the Atlanta Falcons. He spent last season with the Indianapolis Colts, playing in 12 games and starting four. The 49ers signed Person to a one-year contract in May.
… on Person:
Former Sidney coach Mike Gear: “I know that Mike’s No. 1 ability was that he tried hard all the time. He had one of those, as they always say, ‘A motor that never stops running.’ He was one of those kids that was going to get up and do it over and over and over again and make himself better. He had the size, but he got bigger and stronger and he just made himself a good football player each year. Sometimes kids get complacent with their abilities and where they’re at, but that never happened with Mike. I think he kind of knew in the back of his mind that, ‘OK, I don’t have all that natural ability other guys have, I have to make up for it with determination and hard work,’ and that’s what he did. My hat’s off to him. He’s done a great job and been able to stick (in the NFL). Those guys have to be willing to sacrifice, you know? You’re in this city one year and then the next year you’re across the U.S. playing in a different city. I think that takes a lot of determination in order to stay that course.
“I just think it’s a great tribute to Mike to stick with it. You think about all the hours and hours of practice and meetings and all that, for a lot of guys I think there comes a time where it’s easier to walk away from the game than to keep at it. He has never done that and I don’t think he ever will. I’m pretty sure he’ll quit on his own terms, but it will be because he thinks he’s gone as far as he can go and that’s when he’ll maybe not want to play anymore.”
Billings Central coach Jim Stanton: “He was tall, he wasn’t super big at the time. He played on the line. We had very good teams when we played them back then, so we did neutralize him a little bit. He was one that really, really developed into really one of MSU’s finest players that they’ve ever had on the offensive line. Look at what he’s done in the NFL. You never, as you’re coaching, say, ‘This kid is going to be an NFL kid,’ or anything like that. But definitely a kid that just really, really looked the part, ran really well and was just a fierce competitor.
“At that point, Glendive didn’t have real strong teams. Again, we were probably some of the better teams in Class A at that point between ourselves, of course Laurel and definitely Miles City and Sidney, so there were some really good teams in the Eastern A in those days. He definitely, even on that team, he really, really stood out. He really stood out.”