Montana vs Eastern Washington 003.JPG (copy)

Montana's Josh Buss sacks Eastern quarterback Gage Gubrud (8) on Saturday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

TOMMY MARTINO, Missoulian

MISSOULA — Ahead of Montana's matchups with FCS opponents this season, one Grizzly defender has caught the eye of every opposing coach. 

And that's Montana's No. 42 Josh Buss. 

Valparaiso's Dave Cecchini: "There's Josh Buss, the linebacker. He is a playmaker and is a guy who stands out to you on film."

Savannah State's Erik Raeburn: "I've been impressed with 42 on film. He's an excellent player. I think (Montana's) linebacking corps as a group is pretty talented."

Eastern Washington's Aaron Best: "Mr. Buss is one of the better players not only on a defense that's pretty good but also in the conference. He's well-respected and he's a well-known commodity now. He makes a ton of plays. They line him up all over. He can do multiple things. He's very versatile."

This week is no different. 

When Portland State head coach Bruce Barnum was asked who or what stood out to him in Montana's game against Eastern Washington on the Big Sky Conference call on Wednesday, the first person he mentioned was No. 42. 

"Buss isn't a bus. Buss is a bullet train," Barnum said. "That guy's a dude, very impressed. Always was with him. He's everything. Going up against that guy in the middle, that defense is gonna be a battle."

He's shown his defensive prowess thus far this season, recording 39 total tackles with 6½ tackles for loss, three sacks for a loss of 32 yards, an interception, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. 

Because of his efforts, Montana is eighth in the FCS in team sacks and third in team tackles for loss. His personal performances this season are ranked nationally as well. He's 31st in tackles for loss and 20th in sacks. 

Awards wise, Buss was nominated for Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week after posting eight tackles with 3½ tackles for loss, two of which were sacks, and an interception against Savannah State. 

Before the season began, Buss was tabbed to the Big Sky Preseason All-Conference Team after being named third-team All-Big Sky last year. 

Regardless of the attention he's received, he's still selfless and would rather put the team first than look at his individual success.

"We've been pretty close for three or four years now," fellow linebacker Connor Strahm said of Buss. "It's awesome (seeing him succeed). He hasn't changed a bit. It'd be easy for him to let all the accolades and stuff go to his head but he's still the same person on and off the field."

Buss echoed Strahm's sentiment. 

"It's nothing superhuman that I'm doing at all," Buss said. "It's just coaches putting us in the right positions and all 10 other players doing their job."

***

Buss started playing flag football as a 7- or 8-year-old kid when he was growing up near Boise, Idaho

Since he was little, he's always wanted to play college football. 

"I wasn't set on wanting to play FBS or all this stuff," Buss said. "I just wanted to play college football."

And play football he did. 

In high school at Mountain View High School in Meridian, Idaho, he played three different positions. He was a quarterback his freshman season, a wide receiver his sophomore season and a running back for the last two years, earning all-state honors as a junior and a senior. 

As a Mountain View Maverick, Buss broke 11 school records on his way to 2,919 yards rushing, 32 rushing touchdowns, 1,289 receiving yards on 88 receptions with 13 receiving touchdowns. 

"I've kinda been all over the place but linebacker's definitely the favorite," Buss said.

Montana's coaching staff moved Buss to linebacker when he came to Missoula and it's been smooth sailing ever since. 

Montana linebackers coach Travis Niekamp loves the effort he gets day in and day out from his junior starter. 

"He's fun to coach. He makes me look real smart," Niekamp said. "He's played at a very high level since he started last year as a sophomore and has continued that trend.

"He's kind of our utility knife. We have him do a lot of different stuff."

Now that Buss is in his junior season and has started 15 games, he's gaining attention everywhere he goes, but that doesn't matter to him. He's out here because he loves the sport. 

"This has been my favorite game since I was young," Buss said with a smile on his face. "There's not too many better feelings than flying around and hitting someone, especially when you're out here with all best friends. These are all my closest friends that I have.

"It's only five years of college guaranteed. Anyone's one snap away from being hurt. We've seen that this year, unfortunately. I'm just enjoying the process and coming out here every day and working, it's fun. I love it."

The "one snap away from being hurt" that's in direct reference to quarterback Reese Phillips — who Buss said he, and the rest of the team, are playing the rest of the season in honor of. 

"I guarantee that's what everyone's doing out here," Buss said. "You see one of your brothers go down and you want to play for him, obviously. It's awful. ... You want to play for everyone on your team because at the end of the day, they're your brothers. They're your closest friends. They motivate you."

Amie Just covers Griz football for the Missoulian, among other things. Follow her on Twitter @Amie_Just or email her at Amie.Just@406mtsports.com.

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