MISSOULA -- Brandon Purdy has always been as good as his last kick.
It’s the measuring stick most kickers go by. But in every other aspect to becoming Montana’s placekicker, Purdy’s route has been anything but that straightforward.
Purdy walked on to the Montana football team in the spring of 2016. A native of Kalispell and a Glacier High graduate, Purdy worked his way up to become one of the best kickers in the FCS as a sophomore in 2017.
Not bad for a kid who just wanted a shot.
“I remember looking back at the fall of 2015 when I wasn’t on the team, because I was going to try out in the spring, and this just being a dream,” Purdy said. “And growing up a Griz fan, it was a dream come true.”
He added with a laugh, “I remember getting the email saying, ‘You can now come use our field to come kick on.’ That felt really good because I was jumping the fence at the Riverbowl and kicking on the field goal uprights when they weren’t out there. So being able to go in the stadium and kick and wear that jersey, that’s what it’s all about is Montana and this community. It’s been a journey but we’re continuing to go and it feels good and I feel like I made the right decision.”
Last year injury struck for Purdy, which halted that momentum of success and cost him the season. In 2017 Purdy was 15 for 17 on field goal attempts with a long of 47 yards. That performance earned him honorable mention All-American honors from HERO Sports FCS.
But he didn’t dwell on missing last year, instead using a tactic he learned from kicking to help in other ways.
“Kicking, we have to have a short-term memory,” Purdy said. “It’s hard to focus on each game. I’m more focused on each kick. I was always told you’re only as good as your last kick and that’s kind of how it works in this sport. Especially in football, we have a little bit different profession than other football players. It’s fun.”
So Purdy watched as Tim Semenza took over placekicking duties last season for the Grizzlies. Semenza was another solid option for Montana and finished 13 for 17 on the season on field goal attempts.
“Even last year when I wasn’t playing, Timmy was having a good season,” Purdy said. “All I knew was when I started kicking later in the season I’d focus on each kick. I had a role on the team. The role was a little bit different when you’re not playing, but I was pushing Timmy and it was good and a fun year.
“Now we’re rolling again and feeling pretty good. It’s just the same mentality all year round.”
Semenza didn’t return to Montana for the 2019 season, and now fully healthy, Purdy has regained form en route to becoming a reliable option in those pressure special teams situations. Purdy is 9 for 12 on the season and tied his career-long of 47 yards against North Alabama. He was also 2 for 2 against Eastern Washington on Oct. 26, including a make of 46 yards.
For a guy who almost went two years without a live rep, Purdy’s bounce-back has been a key component for the No. 3 Grizzlies (9-2 overall, 6-1 Big Sky Conference).
“What was really cool, and I’ve been playing with this team for four years now, was just how we’ve grown,” Purdy said. “Just getting a different perspective. As a kicker we already have that perspective because we’re not in it all the time. We’re on the sidelines until we get our name called out there to go kick. It’s just the same perspective and looking from afar and watching us grow and it’s been a fun year.”
Now, Purdy gets set for another Cat-Griz game on Saturday when the Grizzlies head to Bozeman to take on No. 8 Montana State (8-3, 5-2). For a Montana guy like Purdy, seeing former teammates like Glacier grads Josh Hill and Logan Jones on the other sideline is always strange, but it’s the time of the year where every football fan turns their attention to wherever the Cats and Griz collide.
Purdy’s last game before getting injured was the 2017 Cat-Griz game in Bozeman, where he finished a perfect 3 for 3 in field goal attempts.
“This game’s important,” Purdy said. “I’ve never won one of these games. It’s cool being able to compete against some of my friends who I grew up with. But yeah, I’ve never won one, and people always have these great stories of never losing to the Cats and I want this one. We all do. We know what’s coming and it’s pretty important to us.”