BILLINGS — Come Saturday evening, “the biggest football event in Montana barring a football game” is scheduled to occur.
After two days of festivities leading up to the event, the Montana Football Hall of Fame Induction Banquet is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center.
And the hall of fame inductees, committee, volunteers, and fans are ready for the moment. Like so many events and ceremonies in 2020, the banquet was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
This year’s class of inductees includes Travis Lulay, Shane Collins, Dan Carpenter, Ken Amato and Steve Okoniewski in the Players category; Brent Musburger, Marty Mornhinweg and Bob Beers in the Support category; and Victor Lindskog in the Legacy category.
MTFHOF chairman Rick Halmes of Billings said all of the inductees, with the exception of Lindskog, will be present. Lindskog, who died in 2003 at age 88, will be represented by his son, Stan Lindskog.
The beauty of the MTFHOF banquet is each inductee has a unique past and so there will be nine guest speakers. Before the inaugural 2016 class was celebrated, it was decided the former players would be able to tell their own story the best.
“They are the guest speakers. We thought, ‘How do you do this, how do you honor them?’” Halmes said. “And the only thing we could think of was, ‘Let’s let them tell their own stories.’ And that has done well.”
This class was to have been the 2020 class. And with the long wait to celebrate, guests are coming from far and wide, Halmes said.
As of Sunday, 520 tickets to the banquet were sold and only 40 were available. Individual ticket prices were $100 and tickets for tables of eight were $800.
“We just appreciate going from 170 people to over 500 this year,” Halmes said. “There is probably 100 people coming from Missoula. They are awfully proud of Grizzly nation and Bozeman isn’t far behind. I’m guessing 70 people are coming from there.
“From my point of view, I’m so appreciative and humbled that people show up. It’s a very good thing to do for these former student-athletes.”
Among those in attendance are expected to be past inductees and many of the state’s college football coaches, said Halmes, who noted several prep coaches are in attendance yearly.
“It’s a football Who’s Who in Montana,” Halmes said.
Carpenter, a placekicker, played for Helena High, Montana, the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills in a nine-year NFL career. Amato played football at Montana State and was a long snapper for the Tennessee Titans for nine years. Collins was born in Roundup, graduated from Bozeman, played college football at Arizona State, and was a defensive end in the NFL for Washington for three seasons. Okoniewski, who played for the Griz, had a six-year NFL career as a defensive lineman with the Bills, Packers and Cardinals. Lulay was a QB at MSU and had a 10-year Canadian Football League career.
Lindskog, who was also born in Roundup, attended Stanford, and had an eight-year career as a center and linebacker with the Philadelphia Eagles. He later was a scout and was part of two Super Bowl winning teams with San Francisco, according to his biography on the MTFHOF website.
Musburger, who went to elementary and middle school in Billings, had a distinguished broadcasting career. Beers, an all-American linebacker at Montana, is being recognized for his work as a longtime NFL scout. Mornhinweg, a four-year starting QB at Montana, has served as head coach of the Detroit Lions and offensive coordinator of San Francisco, Philadelphia, the Jets and Baltimore.
Halmes said Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid was planning to attend as a guest of Mornhinweg’s but won’t be able to make it. However, Reid is sending an autographed football to be auctioned to help raise funds for the MTFHOF. Additionally, five footballs with this year’s HOF inductees’ signatures will be auctioned.