MISSOULA — There aren't many players on the Montana Grizzlies football team that have been year-in and year-out staples like Nash Fouch.
The senior safety was thrown into the fire the minute he could play as a redshirt freshman in 2019, and while an exciting opportunity, hearing his number called at the time came as a bit of a shock.
"I knew I was playing on special teams that first game, my redshirt freshman year, and I knew that I was going to be the first guy to go in if one of the safeties went down," Fouch explained. "What I didn't know is that one play into the second quarter, coach Shann (Schillinger) was going to say, 'Hey, you're going in.' And I was like, 'We're only winning by like, eight. Like, why am I going in?' And that was kind of a shock for me. And I remember after that game thinking, like, man, that was pretty cool.
"Like I was not ready to play that much. But it was awesome. And I think, that whole year, I just kind of consistently got more and more reps. And by the end of that year, it felt pretty special."
Since that moment, Fouch has played in every game for Montana in every season since 2019, and in 2021 as a redshirt sophomore, he became a full-fledged starter on the Griz defense.
And from that bright-eyed kid who first saw the field, to the veteran leader Fouch is now, his growth at Montana has been massive.
"It's been a crazy couple years," Fouch said. "My college career has been full of ups and downs, both on the field and off. And I think if I were to look in the mirror at that at that kid six years ago, five years ago, I don't think I would recognize them. I think I have a lot more confidence on the field. I think I'm much more mature now than I was then, but yeah, I just I don't think I would recognize that kid anymore."
Fouch had to be ready the moment he arrived to Missoula from Woodinville, Washington, which is part of the greater Seattle area.
During his redshirt season, Fouch arrived in 2018 as a skinny freshman, so he focused on putting on weight, and began to learn the speed of the game, and in turn, was ready to roll once he first took the field.
"And I think the biggest thing for me, in terms of my development, was realizing that I that I can keep up with these guys, and that not only can I keep up with them, but I can play fast," said Fouch, who now stands at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds. "And I think it was a little bit that year. But it's been leaps and bounds ever since of just playing physically. And you're just trying to try and assert myself and be physical on the defense."
Year by year he's grown in the program, and because he's a safety, he's been tasked with being a leader on the defensive unit even as a younger player.
"I just try to play fast and just bring everybody with me and just try and keep us keep everybody playing fast," Fouch said. "So that's kind of how I've tried to lead, since I've been here."
Playing fast is Fouch's MO, and so far in his senior year, it's paid off with a huge hit in the opener against Butler that went viral. Plus, he got an interception against Utah Tech last Saturday, as he's helped the Grizzlies start 2-0 this season.
— Kyle Hansen (@khansen406) September 2, 2023
Fouch has used his time at Montana well off the field too as he's set to graduate with a master's degree in public administration in the spring.
So on the field, it's about enjoying every moment he gets in what's been a long and decorated career with the Grizzlies.
"I'm just trying to play every play like it's going to be my last one," Fouch said. "Just because, you know, you never know if it is and when it comes down to it, I'm going to have a last college football game at some point this year. So I'm just trying to have fun doing it.
"I'm so incredibly grateful for my time here. I mean, it's been a grind. And it's been it's been a long, going on six years. But the friendships I've made here and the lessons I've learned just from being a football player, and from all the coaches and everybody, it's just been, it's been amazing. And I'm super, super grateful for that opportunity that I've had and got, you know, getting school paid for, having a master's degree at the end of this year. So I'm really grateful for it."