GREAT FALLS — Between Montana State stockings, flags and helmets, it's easy to see David Smith's is a Bobcat home. He did play football for them, after all, and is keeping close tabs on the team as it prepares to play in the FCS playoff semifinals on Saturday at South Dakota State.
Smith found his way to Bozeman during the recruiting process in high school and said the focus on academics stood out to him.
"They weren't at the top of my list," Smith said. "But they focused on making sure student-athletes had good educational value and that stood out to me more often than the other stuff."
Still, there are plenty of football memories Smith relives from his Bozeman glory days, including when MSU won the Brawl of the Wild over archrival Montana his senior year. The Griz won 16 in a row before that, the longest winning streak for either school in the rivalry's history.
"2002 was the year that we finally got that monkey off our back," he said. "There's been plenty of memories over the years. Too many to pick one that stands out. I know that was a pretty pivotal time in terms of leading up to what's happening now at MSU."
Another former Bobcat with that game still fresh on his mind is Junior Adams. He scored the Cats' lone touchdown in their 10-7 win over the Griz 20 years ago.
"You're always working for that. You know, that moment, that game, and it was a good experience," Adams said.
It's been a long time since that game but Adams still remembers the play call to this day and can tell you exactly how he was able to score that 53-yard touchdown and propel the Cats over the Griz.
"I remember repping it all week in practice. Set was empty left 35 mix. And all I knew was if I just cross back and then win across his face, it's going to be me, the blizzard, the white snow, and the end zone," Adams said. "And then, you know, I crossed face, Travis Lulay bought a little bit of time, you know, and threw a perfect ball."
Smith has been impressed with the Cats the last few years and sees lots of team chemistry and potential. Enough potential to get back to the championship game and maybe even bring the big prize back to Bozeman.
"Look at where we are. Montana State's on the map," Smith said. "You know, everybody knows who the Bobcats are. They dealt with miscellaneous injuries here and there. They've shown lots of grit. They never lost faith in terms of who they were. They kept on fighting. And we're in the semifinals right now. And we go down to South Dakota State this weekend and going to show them what our capabilities are as a team."
Smith attended last year's national championship game and even drove all the way from Montana to Frisco, Texas. He says there's no way he'll miss it this year if the Bobcats get past SDSU this weekend.
"Oh, absolutely. There is nothing that's going to keep me from from going to the national championship," he said.
Adams, Smith and many others will watch the Bobcats kick off against the Jackrabbits in Brookings, S.D., on Saturday a t 2 p.m.