(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, and started the offense with the offensive linemen, tight ends, wide receivers and running backs. This week we focus on quarterbacks, two each day — one from the modern era and one who played pre-1980s.)
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.
Defensive linemen: No. 5 – Kroy Biermann, Hardin; No. 4 – Pete Lazetich, Billings Senior; No. 3 – Mitch Donahue, Billings West; No. 2 – Dwan Edwards, Columbus; No. 1 – Mike Tilleman, Chinook.
Linebackers: No. 5 – Pat Taylor, Great Falls CMR; No. 4 – Mark Fellows, Choteau; No. 3 – Jason Crebo, Helena Capital; No. 2 – Jim Kalafat, Great Falls CMR; No. 1 – Corey Widmer, Bozeman.
Offensive lineman: No. 5 – Barry Darrow, Great Falls CMR; No. 4 – Mike Person, Glendive; No. 3 – Sonny Holland, Butte; No. 2 – Kirk Scrafford, Billings West; No. 1 – Pat Donovan, Helena High.
Tight ends: No. 5 – Will Dissly, Bozeman; No. 4 – Joe Bignell, Deer Lodge; No. 3 – Brian Salonen, Great Falls High; No. 2 – Mark Gilman, Kalispell Flathead; No. 1 – Casey Fitzsimmons, Chester.
Wide receivers: No. 5 – Gabe Sulser, Billings Senior; No. 4 – Mark Gallik, Stevensville; No. 3 – Matt Miller, Helena Capital; No. 2 – Marc Mariani, Havre; No. 1 – Sam McCullum, Kalispell Flathead.
Running backs: No. 5 — Steve Kracher, Columbia Falls; No. 4 — Kerry Porter, Great Falls High; No. 3 — Lex Hilliard, Kalispell Flathead; No. 2 — Don Hass, Glendive, No. 1 — Chase Reynolds, Drummond.
Quarterbacks: No. 5 — Paul Petrino, Helena Capital and Bob O’Billovich, Butte; No. 4 — Brock Osweiler, Kalispell Flathead and John Leister, Great Falls CMR.
No. 3 quarterbacks – Tyler Emmert, Helena Capital and Ty Paine, Billings Senior
One of the most decorated high school and college quarterbacks in Montana’s history, Helena Capital’s and Carroll College’s Tyler Emmert lost only three games in eight years under center. Meanwhile, Billings Senior’s Ty Paine became a three-year starter at Washington State and was an NFL Draft pick of the New York Giants.
Tyler Emmert stat sheet
As a quarterback at Helena Capital, Tyler Emmert never lost a game, owning a perfect 47-0 record between his freshman and senior years, including a 26-0 mark with the Mark Samson-led varsity squad that won back-to-back Class AA state championships in 1999 (53-24 vs. Billings West) and 2000 (35-6 vs. Kalispell Flathead). Emmert was a two-time first-team all-state selection and was named the Class AA offensive MVP and USA Today Montana player of the year his senior season. He held 11 Helena Capital records, 10 in football and another in track, and was named the MVP of the 2001 Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl, a 33-0 Montana shutout against North Dakota. Emmert also played in the Montana East-West Shrine Game, earned letters in basketball and track and field, while capturing an American Legion Baseball state championship with the Helena Senators. Though his prep days were impressive, it was his time at Carroll College that boosted him into numerous Halls of Fame.
Emmert redshirted his freshman season, watching his older brother, J.D., lead the Fighting Saints to a Frontier Conference championship and appearance in the NAIA national semifinals, setting numerous passing records along the way. Tyler Emmert would surpass those records and many others. A four-year starter for the Fighting Saints, Emmert became the most decorated football player in league history. He led Carroll to four consecutive Frontier Conference championships, earning first-team all-conference and league MVP honors, while also guiding Carroll to NAIA national championships in each of his four seasons. A three-time NAIA first-team all-American and two-time national player of the year, Emmert posted a career record of 51-3 at Carroll, with 12,770 passing yards and 110 passing touchdowns, as well as 1,209 rushing yards and 23 more scores. His 13,979 total offensive yards became an NAIA record. Emmert became the first college quarterback, at any level, to own a career completion percentage greater than 70 percent. He also earned multiple academic honors, including the 2005 Scholar Athlete Award from the National Football Foundation.
A member of the Helena Sports Hall of Fame, Emmert was inducted into the Carroll College Hall of Fame in 2015 as the single-season record-holder in touchdowns, total yards, passing yards and passing touchdowns. He also held career records for total touchdowns, touchdown passes, passing yards, attempts, completions, total offense and completion percentage. The NAIA Hall of Fame enshrined Emmert in 2014. After serving nearly a decade as an assistant coach for the Fighting Saints, Emmert stepped away to spend more time with his growing family. He is currently a Helena school board member and Helena Market President at Opportunity Bank.
… on Tyler Emmert
Carroll College head football coach Mike Van Diest: “He was phenomenal in high school, watching him play. The quarterback position always lends itself to being a great leader and the composure you have. He was that way. He was that way in high school, as a junior, as a senior. Everything he did was amazing. Players around him played better because he made players be better, because of his attitude and because of his ability.
“Shoot, that was every game he played in. I don’t know that there wasn’t one of them, you know? He just did everything great. J.D. was a great mentor to him that year that Tyler was redshirting. He threw with such great accuracy. What people don’t realize, he had over 1,000 yards rushing in his career here. That wasn’t just by scrambling or things, that was by design, by keeping plays alive. He was a tremendous football player and that read-option play was designed for him. He had some tremendous talent around him with the (Mark) Galliks, Kevin McCutcheons and those types of players, Casey Fitzsimmons, you look at (Ryan) Grosulak and Jed Thomas in the backfield, but he utilized his players, he utilized his teammates. He always kept composure, there was never a game we were out of.
“You have to be at the right place at the right time and a four-year starter allowed him to do that. Oh yeah, over 70 percent completion percentage for his career. That’s a tremendous stat. People don’t realize that in this day and age. That wasn’t just dump-off passes, he was throwing that ball downfield. He was utilizing the talent he had at the receiver spot, as well as Casey at the tight end. But what made Tyler so good was he was in command all the time in the huddle, but he was a free-loving guy. He was always thinking, he was always trying to make the next dollar, too, that’s why he’s so successful in this day and age. But what Tyler had going for him was the cerebral part of it, as well as the physical talent.”
Carroll College offensive coordinator Nick Howlett: “I do (remember his first loss at Carroll after an undefeated prep career). It was against Central Washington out here and I’m pretty sure he was the last guy out of the locker room. As all great quarterbacks do, he thought the entire thing was his fault. It had been a long time since he had experienced that and I knew he didn’t want to do it again, and he didn’t do it often. All that did was light the fire to work harder and we did some things that we had to adjust for him, as well. I remember that game, we did a lot of trying to protect him, which was probably not the best thing to do, instead of just giving him options. We all learned a lesson that day and the rest is history.
“I remember Tyler asking me at one point, ‘What did you change about my release? Or change mechanically?’ The biggest thing was moving from underneath center, which he was, primarily at Helena Capital, and I don’t know if they had a drop-back pass at Capital, it was set up with play-action with Don Saisbury and those guys, so he had a little bit of a windup in where he carried the ball more than anything. When you see Tyler’s release, and the greatest thing with Tyler, no matter what it was, you could tell him to change it one time and it was changed. No matter how hard he had to work outside of the coaches being there, it was changed by the next practice. It was that way in everything that he did.
“To me, (having a completion percentage greater than 70 percent) is what leads to those championships. Tyler is probably the best I’ve ever seen at taking, truly, what the defense gave. He was fine throwing a six-yard hitch and being 2nd-and-2, and when the time was right, going over the top with Gallik and those guys. It was fun to have discussions with Tyler about what we were going to do on any given day and he always wanted to know why. It was great because you’re always on the same page.”
Ty Paine stat sheet
An outstanding talent at Billings Senior High School in the late 1960s, Paine’s skill set caught the attention of Pac-8 program Washington State, where he would become a three-year starter for the Cougars.
In 1970, Paine played in 11 games for Washington State, completing 123 of 267 passes for 1,581 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 178 yards and four more scores. His 24 interceptions are a Washington State single-season record. The following season saw Paine rely more on his abilities in the rushing game, tallying 130 carries for 482 yards and six scores. He still threw for 1,206 yards and five touchdowns. In 1972 he threw for 1,349 yards and seven touchdowns, rushing for 250 more yards and seven scores. He finished his Washington State career with 4,136 passing yards and 15 touchdowns, with 910 yards on the ground and 17 rushing touchdowns.
Paine was selected to participate in the 1972 East-West Shrine Game in Stanford, Calif. His name can still be found in the Washington State record books, next to names like Drew Bledsoe. Paine’s 725 career pass attempts ranked in the top 10 in program history. He was awarded the 1972 J. Fred Bohler Award, given to the football athlete who best exemplifies the inspiration of the former WSU athletic director and head basketball coach. He was a ninth-round selection of the New York Giants in the 1973 NFL Draft, the 225th overall pick, though he never played in an NFL game.