It started off with a joke.
Brandon Purdy played soccer at Glacier High School, but his friends started teasing him one summer about kicking for Wolfpack football.
Glacier coach Grady Bennett got wind of it and set out to recruit Purdy, then a rising junior, for the football team.
It worked, and the rest is history.
Purdy is now a redshirt junior at the University of Montana.
Glacier allowed Purdy to play both soccer and football in the same season. Since both sports hold practices at Legends Stadium, Purdy would go to soccer practice and then run over to the football field when they called his name.
“It was rough, but it was funny, though,” Purdy said. “I’d run over with my shinguards on and I’d have to take those off.”
In 2013, Glacier lost to Bozeman in the AA state title game, its second loss of the season. The other loss was also to Bozeman earlier in the year.
Coming up short in the championship game lit a fire under the players.
“From that point forward I remember some of my teammates writing ‘365 days’ on our whiteboard in the weight room and that was it,” Purdy said. “We had a countdown going until the next championship game.”
Glacier went undefeated the next season, Purdy’s senior year and beat C.M. Russell 56-19 to win the state championship, held at Legends Stadium. Purdy went 8 for 12 on field goals and 57 for 62 on PATs that year. His 48-yard field goal against Bozeman set a school record that still stands.
Then he started to think seriously about playing football in college. Purdy had played baseball in high school, too, but he knew that wasn’t in the cards for him at the next level.
“I wanted to play baseball but I wasn’t tall enough,” Purdy said. “With Montana sports it’s hard. Baseball and soccer, they’re the two sports that it’s hard to try to play at the next level, just because you’re not playing all year round.”
Purdy ended up with offers from other schools, but his decision was easy.
“Being a Griz fan my whole life and coming down to watch games my whole life, I think the obvious answer was I wanted to be a Griz,” he said. “I got to walk-on with a few guys, and I’m here. It was a pretty cool experience.”
Purdy studies economics at Montana.
He played five games in 2016 as the back up kicker and made 12 of 13 extra-point attempts and two of three field goal attempts, the longest 38 yards.
The next season was Purdy’s best to date. He made 44 of 47 extra-point attempts and 15 of 17 field goals, with the longest 47 yards.
That season he was named third-team All-Big Sky and HERO Sports FCS All-America honorable mention.
Then he was sidelined by injury at spring camp and didn’t play at all in 2018 but hopes to bounce back this season.
“No other place than Legends Stadium to kind of come back from all this adversity,” Purdy said. “I’m excited to go back home, especially with the team we have now. We have a special group of guys.”
Montana plays its Spring Game at Legends today at 1 p.m. It’ll be special for Purdy, especially since the last football game he played there was the state title game almost five years ago. He’ll join nine other Montana players from the Flathead Valley.
The field, of course, is much better than it was in Purdy’s high school days. Since he graduated, Legends has been updated with artificial turf.
Purdy remembers the icy field conditions at the state championship game in 2014 and some of his teammates putting on tennis shoes for extra traction.
“It’s better than it used to be.”
Purdy’s family will be watching, too.
“It’ll be good to see everyone,” he said. “Some of them haven’t been to any of my games so it’ll be cool to be there and have them watch.”
Purdy still sees his former high school coach, as Bennett assists the Griz play-by-play broadcasting team during the season in addition to his duties at Glacier.
Montana coach Bobby Hauck has had an impact on Purdy on and off the field during his college career.
“Coach Hauck’s amazing,” Purdy said. “He’s a big special teams guy so he know’s what he’s talking about. He’s been around it for years. Having him there, having him as a mentor, he helps you out. He can see things that most guys can’t. It’s always good to have him on your side, especially when it comes down to making something work.”