To play a collegiate sport at a Division I level is a dream for many kids out there. For Montana Grizzlies receiver and starting H-back Reese Carlson, that dream has come true.
But what makes the dream that much sweeter was his thirst to play football in Missoula.
The Gig Harbor, Washington native said he wanted to play for Montana coming out of high school, and even looks from the more-local Eastern Washington Eagles couldn’t deter his dream to wear the maroon and silver. After redshirting for the Griz, Carlson is on to the field this season, ready to take his dream to a higher level.
He wants to help propel the Grizzlies back to the top of the Big Sky Conference as part of a solid receiving corps that is fueled by the schemes and tinkering of new head coach Bob Stitt.
The Missoulian chatted with Carlson before a September practice on his status as a young up-and-comer in the program, how he is adjusting to Stitt’s fast-paced offense and more.
Q: You attended high school in Gig Harbor. How would you describe that experience and what was your prep career like?
A: Gig Harbor is close to Tacoma, and I wasn’t really recruited all that much coming out of high school. I came to the camp here and the coaches liked me. Montana was where I wanted to be at the end of the day regardless of anyone’s interest in me.
Q: What’s your major and why did you choose to study that?
A: I’m majoring in sociology, and I’m going for a minor in history. Sociology just kind of intrigued me based on the criminal justice focus. My dad is a cop back home and I’ve done a couple ride-alongs with him. With my minor, I figured I have five years so why not go for it?
Q: What’s your favorite class been at UM so far?
A: I really like my American History class that I had last spring semester.
Q: Do you have a favorite show you like to watch?
A: I used to love the Friday Night Lights television series back when it was on TV.
Q: With you being a starting redshirt freshman, the team obviously believes in you and has a lot of stock invested behind your play. What kind of confidence has that given you?
A: It’s a really cool thing to see from my team, it has given me a lot of confidence in myself and my play. From redshirting last year to coming in this year and being able to play is an awesome feeling. The coaches instill confidence in us, and having your teammates behind you helps as well. That being said, I can’t take a day off because I know what it took to get here.
Q: You had a key 31-yard catch in the first week’s North Dakota State game. What was that feeling like?
A: I had a few catches earlier in the game, but to have that one at the end, it was a surreal feeling. To help put the team in a situation to win the game, that’s all you can ask for.
Q: (Quarterback Brady) Gustafson had a solid outing against North Dakota State, but struggled throughout the Cal Poly game last week. How would you describe that receiver-quarterback connection, and how do you think Brady is holding up at starter?
A: Brady is doing awesome I think. He can only continue to get better. He has tremendous composure, something I noticed right away. His smarts on the football field are there and someone as young as him typically might not have that intelligence about them. Last game, the receivers struggled as a whole and we all have to do a better job to help the team out.
Q: What would you say went wrong in the Cal Poly game?
A: Me personally, I don’t think I played well enough. I made a lot of mistakes. The effort was there, but mentally I wasn’t on top of my game. I have this week and next week to get ready and get better, so hopefully we can improve.
Q: How has the relationship with Coach Stitt been so far?
A: It’s really cool to have a head coach that actually works with the offense. I’m not really used to having the head coach, like, really get hands-on with every aspect of the game. He has even worked with me individually. He works with all the receivers, running backs and quarterbacks. He’s really hands-on and it’s awesome to see.
Q: Playing with guys like Ellis Henderson and Jamaal Jones who are obviously experienced, dynamic players, what have they passed down and what do they try to instill in the team?
A: Ellis and Jamaal are just first of all great people, just as good as they are players. Just watching them at practice, you see them making these big catches that they are making on the field on game day on a regular basis. They are special dudes, their work ethic is something they take very seriously.
Q: How is the team moving on from Cal Poly and focusing on Liberty?
A: We have no choice but to put the tough Cal Poly loss behind us. At the same time we have to learn from the mistakes we made. There’s so much talent on this team and we know what we’re capable of. We just have to come together as a unit and collectively move on and work towards being better. It’s not fair to dwell on one loss.