HELENA — When Troy Purcell was named the 21st head coach in Carroll College football history back in December, it was a return home for the former Helena Capital and Fighting Saints gridder. Thirty years after donning the Carroll College purple and gold, Purcell looks to lead his alma mater back to the NAIA playoffs, a destination the Saints haven’t seen since the fall of 2014.
Purcell recently finished his first year of spring football drills with the Saints, and has been on the recruiting trail as Carroll continues to build its roster for the 2019 season.
Purcell recently sat down with MTN Sports to discuss the Saints’ spring football drills, the greatest challenges in his first six months as head coach and what the summer holds for him, his wife Krista, and daughter Brooklyn, who graduates high school in Washington next month, and will attend Carroll in the fall.
MTN Sports: The first thing is kind of wrapping up recruiting as we’re getting set, closer and closer to fall, obviously, what’s it been like going out and seeing so many familiar faces and trying to get kids to buy in to the new regime at Carroll College?
Troy Purcell: “It’s been fun. The 2019 class is pretty much finished up. We have a couple more guys on the take there a little bit, and hopefully we can get them in, some transfer kids. You always have to see who’s open and who’s willing to make that transfer when they make that decision. We’ll have a little bit ready for that. Then we’re just getting ready for the 2020 kids now. The coaches are out and they’ve flooded Montana pretty well. It was good. It was good to get out and see the old guys I’ve coached against all these years here in Montana, getting to know them again, seeing their kids. There is a lot of turnover, it’s amazing in coaching how many guys get in and then get out, but there’s a lot of good Montana talent around and it will be fun to see (including this weekend’s state track and field meets in Kalispell and Laurel). It’s fun to see them live and developing those relationships.”
MTN Sports: For you personally, because I know the first few weeks were just a whirlwind of trying to get everything taken care of, then it was straight to spring ball, so being out on the recruiting trail, what’s it been like to rekindle some of those relationships? You probably still had them at Idaho when there were guys that were that level, but now it’s closer to home and we see a lot of those guys from Montana high school ball go to the Frontier Conference level.
Purcell: “For sure, and that’s one of the things that’s very fortunate, there’s a place for a kid to play football. If he wants to play football, there’s a level for him to do that. Maybe it’s not at the Cats or Griz, the Mountain West or the Pac-12, but there is a place for everybody to go play somewhere if you want to play and love the game and you want to be a part of it still. So that’s fortunate for Montana and the surrounding areas to be able to have that opportunity. That part is pretty dang exciting. It’s been good to get back and, again, assess the talent that’s around Montana.”
MTN Sports: You mentioned state track, when you go to these track meets, different coaches like to hang out by the shot put or discus, some in at the high jump, what’s the event you like to hang out at?
Purcell: “The 100. Definitely the 100. Oh yeah, we need some speed. I think you can always recruit offensive linemen and speed, so I want to see how these guys can run. I want to see them in a straight line as fast as they can run. There is athleticism to everything they do, and the biggest thing is to see them out there competing and how they are competing, how successful they are. That’s why we love multi-sport athletes, they know how to win, know how to lose and if you just play one sport, maybe you didn’t know how to, maybe they were always really good, but all of a sudden you have some adversity and they don’t know how to come back from that. Or vice versa, they always lose at one sport over and over and over, they don’t know how to get through those tough times. You do that every time you’re out running the 100, every time you’re up to bat in a baseball game, every time at the free throw line taking a shot, you get those juices, you get that adrenaline, get the butterflies and you learn how to compete. That’s what we want. We want kids that want to compete and go out and excel and be the best they can be.”
MTN Sports: For you personally, two-part question, what’s been the most natural thing transitioning to this, and then what’s been the biggest challenge so far?
Purcell: “I would say the town, it’s home. That’s been the comfort factor, I guess, seeing all the people that I’ve known here for the last 51 years, I guess. It’s good to rekindle those old friendships. Some of those guys I haven’t seen forever and it’s like we haven’t broken the communication. The hardest part is getting the guys on staff, getting them ready, getting the 2019 kids here, getting the recruiting trail going. The obstacles of when class, I didn’t realize it was that hard, so going 5 a.m. and making sure our whole team was there. Really proud of our kids right now, our players, getting up that early. There wasn’t anybody missing and I would say 99.9 percent of the kids are coming back this fall, so it shows that spring ball went well. They’re excited about the program, they’re excited about the energy, they’re excited about Carroll football and the coaching staff’s dedication toward it all, so each day is key. You have to get a year in. Once you get a year in then you have a pretty good understanding of what’s going to happen that next year at that time, what you need to do better. Working with the budget and bus costs, this and that, because it doesn’t (always) add up with pluses and minuses, recruiting travel, but they’ll get it all figured out and (Carroll College director of athletics Charlie Gross) does a great job. He’s very, very supportive of all the athletics, football and our staff, also, and he’s done an exceptional job there. (Carroll president Dr. John Cech) is the same way. Anything we need, they’re doing their best to make it happen. It’s been good, new challenges, keep moving forward and today is a new day. Win the day, that’s what we tell the guys, ‘Win the day. Control your effort, attitude and toughness each day when you come in as a coach and a player.’ At the end of each day, look in the mirror and say, ‘Yeah we got better today,’ or ‘We have to re-evaluate what we’re doing and move in a different direction. But we just want to win the day.”
MTN Sports: Always changes, one of those new changes, fun new things, the quarterback club at Carroll College is something you’re stressing. Explain to people what it is, how they can get involved and how it helps benefit the Carroll College football program.
Purcell: “The quarterback club has always been here, we have our founders, there were 23 members here before at their $1,000 membership. That’s what it was. I knocked it down to a $1,000 membership, a $500 membership and a $250 for a legacy. If you were an old coach or old player and you want to help Carroll, but maybe don’t have that financial, maybe you’re not as old as I am, you know what I mean, where maybe it’s easier, because some of these guys are pretty young, but it still gives them an opportunity. They get a sideline pass as a legacy guy, they can come back to all the games, and I want all those guys to come back. The Coach (Bob) Petrino era, the (Mike) Van Diest era and even before that, those coaches were great. With Coach Petrino and Coach Van Diest, that was 48 years of players that we can bring in and be a part of it, get them here to see their old buddies and stuff again. And $250 isn’t bad to get the pass, you get a hat and a few other things. Every level you just get a little bit more, recognition, a little more opportunities for support, tailgate spots, this and that. All that money goes into the program. That equipment, we bought a five-man sled, there’s a clock, there’s some pop-up dummies they didn’t have, regular dummies, everything you need for practice to help these kids to excel and have coaches have the tools to help the kids be the best they can be. That’s where that money goes into. Right now it’s just flooding into the equipment part of it, getting caught up, then every year we’ll have to do one of these instead of all at one time. There’s an end zone camera, all this stuff just for the tools for a coach to help kids get better.”
MTN Sports: All that equipment, we know it benefits the players, flip it around, you talked about the legacy guys and how important it is to get them involved, what about the community members? If someone comes in at that $750 or $1,000, they’re going to know they’re helping, but it also gets them a little more involved with the program, as well.
Purcell: “Oh for sure. You get your weekly newsletter, you can go to the luncheons and learn about the recap of the last game, what’s coming up next week and what we’re looking for, how we’re going to go against Western, go against Tech, what are some of the things we’re going to be looking at. Just having that opportunity, there’s a sideline pass, you get two sideline passes for two games as a $1,000 donor, then for $750 you get one, there’s some tailgating going on, so there are dates on there. There’s a hotel room, so say you’re coming from out of town, you get a hotel room one night for free. That’ll help the moms and dads coming in from out of state. You can use it on away games also, so if you wanted to travel with the team there’s an opportunity to have a hotel room built into that also. The $1,000 donors will also have a, they’ll get some Nike swag and it will say ‘1K’ on the back. The founders’ will say ‘Founder’ on it and then the $500 club will have a ‘C’ on it. The legacy guys don’t get a jacket, but they get the hat, which will say ‘Legacy’ on it. The recognition will be there and the support. There will be a plaque outside the office here with the names of the 1K members. That support, every little bit helps and it’s been phenomenal so far, so we want to keep building on that, keep growing on that and any support is, and like I said, donations. They can go there and hit donation of $1,000 or whatever. They don’t get any of the benefit stuff, but all of that money goes in to the program, to these kids and players. It’s helmets, jerseys, it’s all that.”
MTN Sports: If they want to sign up for it and learn more information, where do they go?
Purcell: “Go to www.CarrollAthletics.com, click on ‘football’ and you can click right on the ‘quarterback club.’ It will give you a shop menu that shows everything that you get as your reward, as your purchase, I guess, on what you get out of the quarterback club. It also shows the different levels of how much you can contribute, and even payment plans. Some people just spend $250 four times and get payment plans that way. It’s exciting. It’s a way to be involved and give back to Carroll College. If you haven’t been there in a while, it would be good to get you back as one of the founders, and if you’re a new person it would be great to get you into the quarterback club and part of Carroll College. Carroll has given us so much as players, getting a degree out of Carroll, it’s good to give something back, look back on the past at the pictures on the walls, those championships and the old camaraderie and the old buddies. Just being a part of something makes it very rewarding.”
MTN Sports: We’ve chatted recruiting, we’ve chatted upcoming recruiting, we talked about spring ball a little bit, the quarterback club, what does the rest of the summer hold for you as we get closer and closer to August with the two-a-days firing up and eventually, that first game on the Frontier Conference schedule?
Purcell: “ We have our kids out until about the second or third of June and then they come back and get jobs, make sure they’re getting everything right on that end. Then we’re going to go early in the morning, probably 5:30 a.m., then the next group is 6:45, get our lifting in and get a little bit of drill situations in during the mornings. Get the kids here, get them acclimated and ready to go. We do have our June camps coming up, and you can find all that stuff online, also, the youth camps and 7-on-7, big man camps, junior days and those go into July. July is kind of when you can take a little bit of a breath and get the kids lifting, keep working through that, then August is right around the corner. We’re going to be out there August 11 and report date will be the 9th, then the 11th we’re rolling. It will be good, will be exciting and I’m just excited. The kids are excited, the coaches are excited, so there’s a really good buzz around here right now.”
MTN Sports: That’s all for Coach Purcell, what about Troy Purcell? You mention July is the catch-your-breath month, what’s Troy Purcell going to be up to during the summer months when he has time?
Purcell: “We still have to get the family here. We have Brooklyn and Krista, my daughter Brooklyn will graduate on June 8 out of Pullman High over there, so it will be good to get them here. Get finished, move into the house and all that stuff, the little things like that. Hit the 4th of July and then we’re going to take a little family trip, just take a little break there around the second week of July, and then get back here and ready to roll. There really isn’t a lot of time, because you want to be great, you want to be good, and you want to give the kids the best opportunity to be successful, so that’s time. You have to put the time in to be successful. So just keep working, moving forward, get acclimated to Helena and the people around the community and the support that they have, which is exciting.”