BOZEMAN — It’s been a crazy year for Minnesota native and Montana State Bobcats safety Ty Okada -- from COVID-19, coaching changes and the death of George Floyd rocking his home state to now the death of Daunte Wright.
“I don’t think you could put words to even describe it," said Okada, who grew up in Woodbury, Minnesota and attended East Ridge High School. "My mom called me, she’s from Brooklyn Center (where the death of Wright occurred), it’s where she went to high school. It’s devastating and it’s during the George Floyd trials.”
Even though he loves his home state, Okada has difficulty saying where's he from over the past year.
“I’ve always loved representing Minnesota and being from there but when times like this happen, it’s kind of sad," he said. "You’re like, 'Do I even want to tell someone?'”
A leader of the safety group, Okada has trouble finding the words to say to his teammates, but they’re a close-knit group and anyone is free to talk about what’s on their mind.
“People are upset, they want to see change, they want to see action taken," said Okada. "That’s kind of why I just don’t even have words. Because if I’m feeling this way as a white person, I can’t even imagine how some in those shoes would feel. It’s just tough, because you want to be there for people and it’s all sorts of different emotions, rightfully so."
An upperclassman of a young group, Okada has embraced that leadership role.
“Just as an older guy, I try to be someone that people can come to, the younger guys feel comfortable with and being almost that liaison where people can come to me with concerns or questions and I can bring that up to the new coaches," he said. "Just trying to be that guy that can balance that out.”
With the hectic year, Okada is using it as a learning experience.
“If you’re a true competitor, if you’re a true athlete and if you want to call yourself a hard worker and this that and the other, these things are going to happen in life and it’s how you respond to it," Okada said. "It is what it is, you roll with the punches and honestly, it’s been great. It’s a learning experience at the end of the day.”
The junior safety also likes what he’s seen from his defense so far, especially in the Bobcats' most recent scrimmage this past weekend.
“One thing we did well was I feel like guys weren’t afraid to throw their stuff in there and get tackles and we competed,” said Okada.
And he couldn’t be more excited to play under new defensive coordinator Freddie Banks.
“He brings a lot of great energy to each practice," Okada said of Banks. "If someone needs a fire lit under them, he does it. He can also be that guy that’s just even keel. He brings whats necessary to practice and it’s been a lot of fun working with him so far.”
Okada and the defense will take the field for fans in the Sonny Holland Classic scrimmage at 1 p.m. on April 24.