(Editor's note: The 2021 Montana Football Hall of Fame Class was inducted June 26 at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center. Over the next few weeks, MTN Sports will bring you stories sharing what some of those inductees are up to in their lives after sports. Up first was one of the greatest voices in sports history, followed by an NFL offensive guru.)
A former Helena High Bengal and Montana Grizzly was inducted into the Montana Football Hall of Fame this summer. Dan Carpenter is among the best kickers in Montana history, and during his time with the Griz he racked up four consecutive all-Big Sky selections and two all-America picks.
“It’s an honor. Definitely never something I thought would happen," Carpenter said. "I’m just the average Montana boy. Grew up here and I don’t envy the committee. They’ve got to make some tough decisions. There’s plenty of guys out there that could be sitting in this chair.”
Dan Carpenter turned his success at Montana into an NFL opportunity, where he played nine seasons – five with the Miami Dolphins and four with the Buffalo Bills. Carpenter was a Pro-Bowler in 2009, when he hit 25 of 28 field goal attempts and 37 of 38 extra-point tries. Carpenter finished his career with 999 total points.
“The ball is a little harder in Buffalo in December. It’s definitely different. In Miami it doesn’t take as long to warm up, obviously, just from temperature-wise, and stay warm," said Carpenter. "When you’re up in Buffalo in December, for the other 95% percent of the guys it’s not that bad. They’re moving constantly, staying warm and stuff like that. There’s a select few of us where are plays can be few and far between. When it gets cold it’s a struggle sometimes to stay loose and stay warm on the sidelines.”
Carpenter’s longest kick came on December 5, 2010 when he booted a 60-yard field goal at home against the Cleveland Browns. It was the fifth-longest field goal in NFL history at the time. But pressure kicks and long-range attempts weren’t quite as nerve-wracking as attempt No. 1.
“My first field goal in the NFL, it was hard because it took, I think it was three games. It took three games for me to get my first opportunity on a field goal. I had extra points. It was in Arizona and I think it was 31 yards. It was just nice to be able to get one and get it out of the way," Carpenter said. "Something I always said is when I got out there in the games, it tended to be easy because you didn’t think. It’s what you’ve practiced, it’s what you’ve done over and over and over. Once you get out there you almost blackout where next time you wake up and it’s in the air and you’re like, ‘Oh, OK. Good, it went in.’”
Fans probably haven’t heard much from Carpenter since his final season in Buffalo in 2016, and that’s how he likes it. He’s back in Montana, as he and his wife bought a ranch near Plentywood, which is where he spends the majority of his time.
“Just kind of living in the middle of nowhere. It’s pretty quiet. No traffic. The occasional plane flies by, but that’s about it. It’s great," Carpenter said. "People always asked me when I got done playing football what I was going to do and I said I was going to disappear. People were laughing but it’s pretty true. It’s a great place. It’s quiet, great people, great community and I’m just happy to be able to raise my kids there.”
He’s not in the limelight anymore, but Montana fans will have vivid memories of Carpenter’s kicking prowess for years.