BOZEMAN — The Montana State-Montana rivalry is no doubt one of the storied rivalries in all of college football and a game that’s absolutely been circled on calendars this year, but now that we’re just days away from kickoff, reality is setting it in for Montana State's Byron Rollins, who will be suiting for the last time back in his hometown.
“It will definitely be emotional for sure," Rollins reflected. "It’s a hostile stadium to play in, and honestly that makes it a lot of fun too going in there - as loud as it gets - and the fans screaming at you. This has been a great season to finish on.”
Despite growing up just miles from Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula, it had always been Rollins’ dream to dawn a Bobcat uniform.
“I’ve always been a Cat fan since growing up," Rollins stated. "I never even really considered playing for the Griz.”
That’s because some of the defensive lineman’s first memories as a child were him sitting in the stands with his mom watching No. 56 in the blue and gold - his father Josh Rollins ('97-'00).
“We have a long history in the family," Rollins explained. "My great-grandpa [Roy Bray] - he played quarterback for the Griz back in the 50s, and then my dad obviously played for the Cats. It’s been something that I’ve watched this game every single year since I was born.”
In 2015, the Sentinel grad signed with Montana State turning the tables to a father and son bond that grew over the love of Bobcat Football.
“It’s definitely one of the biggest connections we have, and he’s definitely one of the craziest fans out in the stands," Rollins chuckled. "You’ll see his fingers will be bloody because he’s ringing the cowbell so hard. His voice is gone after every single game, so it’s really special - especially after Cat-Griz - to go up to him and hug him.”
Rollins' role on the defensive line grew substantially this season, serving as a key piece to Montana State’s D-line rotation, often filling the shoes of all-Big Sky selection Chase Benson.
While Rollins still has one more year of eligibility, this will be his last clash with the Griz in his hometown of Missoula as he shifts his focus towards dental school next fall.
“It’s been an amazing journey," Rollins smiled. "I’ve had so many amazing relationships with these and coaches. So far we’re on track to complete all our goals as a team that we’ve had and personal goals, so it's just been a great last year.”
Rollins said he expects dozens of his family, friends, and past coaches to be at the game on Saturday.
Kickoff is set for noon.