(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.)
No. 2 offensive lineman – Kirk Scrafford, Billings West
Former teammates often speak glowingly of their offensive linemen, but few get the recognition of Kirk Scrafford, the Billings West graduate who was an integral piece at the University of Montana before embarking on a solid NFL career.
Kirk Scrafford stat sheet
Scrafford, a 1985 graduate of Billings West, became a four-year starter on the offensive line at Montana, starting 43 consecutive regular-season games, which was then a program record, from 1986-89. He was a first-team all-Big Sky Conference selection his junior and senior seasons and was voted the team’s outstanding offensive lineman in 1989 when he was also a first-team all-American. Scrafford also earned honorable mention all-America recognition in 1988 as a junior.
After playing in the King All-America Classic Bowl in 1989, Scrafford signed as a free agent with the Cincinnati Bengals in 1990. He played left tackle for the Bengals for three seasons, starting nine games. In his first start, Scrafford lined up opposite Los Angeles Raiders defensive end Howie Long, who was later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Scrafford then spent two seasons with the Denver Broncos, before finishing out his career with the San Francisco 49ers. Scrafford played both tackle positions for the 49ers, starting 36 games from 1995-98. In the penultimate game of Scrafford’s NFL career, the 49ers rallied past Green Bay for a 30-27 win in the first round of the NFC playoffs. While Steve Young hit Terrell Owens for the game-winning, 26-yard touchdown with three seconds remaining, Scrafford blocked Packers defensive end Reggie White.
Scrafford retired from the NFL after the 1998 season and returned home to Montana. He was inducted into the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Montana Football Hall of Fame in 2017.
… on Scrafford:
Former Montana teammate Mark Sulser: “Kirk was this big, tall, lean drink of water that played offensive line for Billings West – tall enough to hit his head on the threshold as you walk through the door, because I think before the Senior game they were getting all fired up and he forgot to put his helmet on and cracked his skull open right before the game. And he taped it up like a war victim or something. He goes out and plays the game and stuff. He was one of the most intense human beings I’ve ever met. … He clearly was beyond dedicated and beyond tough really. He started as a redshirt freshman and played four years. Intensity is the word I would use to describe him and just the consummate teammate.
“That group, from the time I got there until I left, there was a number of offensive linemen – they kind of set the bar for the years to come. Immediately the Grizzlies started to recruit big, long offensive linemen. Instead of being 6-3, 280, they were looking for the 6-6 guy, the 6-7 guy. … That offensive front between Tim Polich from CMR, Jay Fagan from Butte High, Chad Germer from Three Forks, Rick Erps from Glasgow, they all that 6-5 to 6-7, 280- to 310-pound offensive lineman. That’s kind of the offensive front that we had, was those five guys when I was there. Kirk was just, he was just a notch above because he was maybe a little quicker, he was extremely intelligent, ridiculously good student. He just had just a little bit extra. All those guys had something to offer, but Kirk kind of had the whole package.
“All the things that have happened at Montana over the years, being a Griz alum, from the stadium to going deep into the playoffs to the national championships, there’s guys like Kirk Scrafford that were offensive linemen, people knew about but they sort of – they’re never forgotten, but they’re the ones that laid the groundwork, I think, for all the success that’s going on, even to this day. I was fortunate to be the grassroots of that. When I was a senior (in high school), the Grizzlies were 3-8 and nobody wanted to go there. That’s why I got to go there, I feel. But we opened the stadium against Idaho State, and Merril Hoge was the tailback at Idaho State, and it was midway through the season. You could just tell that our arrow was pointing up. Between coach (Don) Read and all the different staffs along the way, and the fanbase that they’ve created, that’s why things the way they are in Missoula. Sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back. You’re not going to play in the national championship every year, but I know that’s the goal. It’s guys like Kirk that were the ones that were integral in laying the groundwork for that.”
Former Montana teammate Grady Bennett: “The thing about Scrafford is, he was my right tackle for two years at Montana and his nickname was ‘Scrappy,’ which you might think was because of his name, obviously Scrafford and Scrappy, but really it was because of the way he played. It was a legitimate nickname. He was just a fighter. When I think of him, that’s what I think of, that scrappiness that toughness. I remember, the coaches did everything they could to put weight on him. I mean, he squatted more and was in the lunch room eating seven times a day, he could not gain the weight that he wanted to. I think even in the NFL he played at 275 or 280 (pounds), so he was never as big as he wanted to be, but that led to him being a scrappy, tough player. He was an athlete and he just battled.
“I think of Jay Fagan, I think of, I mean, my line, I was really blessed to have a great offensive line. Chad Germer, obviously he went to the NFL for a little bit, and he’s been a great coach forever. Rick Erps at left guard, I mean, the line was really good. Together, collectively, and that’s when the Griz really started to get things going and I think for the next decade, two decades, the offensive line, built mainly of Montana kids, was really the strong point of Griz football.”