Quarterback may be the most glorious position in all of sports. The hands under center run the offense and all eyes turn to the man in the middle with the football.
For youngsters first slipping on shoulder pads, quarterbacking is the dream. To be like Brady or Manning or Montana.
There was just one problem for big Colin Bingham his first year of youth tackle football: his own size.
“I was over the weight limit,” Missoula Big Sky’s now-senior recalled, “so I was stuck at center.”
What plagued a sixth-grader suiting up for Team Hoagieville is now Bingham’s and the Eagles’ greatest asset. The highly recruited college prospect has swelled to 230-some pounds, a far cry from where he was five or six years ago when the young player’s build already overshadowed the league’s 100-pound weight limit for boys who carry the ball.
Bingham’s natural size and athleticism, coupled with countless hours in the Big Sky weight room, have birthed one of the best blocking tight ends on the best rushing team in the state of Montana this fall.
One hundred pounds is 100 miles in the rear-view mirror for Bingham now. The tight end and defensive end committed to bulking up last year after missing most of his junior season with an injury.
"One of the biggest commitments he has put in is in the weight room. Like any kid, you look at the Palmer twins that played out here or Jordan Tripp, they commit to the weight room," Big Sky coach Matt Johnson said, comparing his current horse to some stallions who recently went on to play at the University of Montana.
"They didn't look like they look now when they were freshmen. I don't think a lot of kids understand that. Colin cleaned 320 pounds the other day. He's worked for four years to get to that. That's physical power and strength."
The 6-foot-3 specimen snapped his collarbone in the opener last fall against Helena High and wouldn't catch his first pass of the season until Week 7. He's up more than 20 pounds -- and a ton of receptions -- since then.
His size means this year's Eagles front line is basically made up of six lineman rather than five.
"Yeah I'm pretty much another lineman for us," he laughed. "But if they need me to go run a route, I'll run it."
Bingham's blocking prowess has become legendary among his Eagles teammates. Most memories of the powerful tight end surround him planting an opponent in the turf while equally bruising running backs Cory Diaz and Michael Banna rumble on by.
"He flat-backs people more than anybody on the team, I think," senior quarterback Luke Entzel said.
Behind he and other biggies up front like returning all-state center Matt Murphy, the Eagles have established the most punishing ground game in the state. They average 260 yards as a team on 5.4 yards per carry.
Diaz, who like Bingham missed Big Sky's Week 2 loss to Billings Senior because of a one-game suspension, has piled up 1,366 yards and 10 touchdowns. His yardage total ranks second only to Great Falls CMR's Andrew Grinde (1,703).
Banna has added 952 yards and another nine rushing scores.
The Eagles don't throw often because of that vaunted land attack, but Bingham provides the biggest target for Entzel's arm. He co-leads the Eagles with 20 receptions -- along with Banna -- and has caught a team-high five scoring strikes.
Two came last week, and the second was perhaps Big Sky's most dramatic TD of the season.
The Eagles trailed Billings West by six in the final minute of the season finale Friday at Missoula County Stadium and had a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Out of character, the Eagles couldn't convert a short-yardage situation and faced fourth down from the 6.
But Entzel lofted a pass to Bingham for the touchdown with 14 seconds left to tie the game before Big Sky won in overtime to move its record to 7-3.
The win locked No. 4 Big Sky into a first-round State AA playoff battle with No. 5 Skyview in Billings this Friday.
"He has the skill sets of a receiver, like a point guard on the basketball court," said senior receiver Chance Maes, who dashed Bingham's final dreams of being a QB by beating him out for the position on Big Sky's freshman team three years ago.
"That really helps him out there," Maes continued. "He gets around pretty well."
Bingham's pass-catching ability, while infrequently put into action, has to keep defenses honest, Coach Johnson added.
"He's not just a blocker and that's what's huge," Johnson said. "People have to worry about our run game so much it's hard to commit extra bodies to him right now."
Bingham's size and bloodlines -- his father Guy manned the line for the Grizzlies before spending 14 seasons in the NFL -- have had college recruiters licking their chops.
The letters pile high at the Bingham household, his father said.
"He gets a lot of mail. And he gets probably just as many emails as regular mail," quipped Guy Bingham, who also serves as an offensive line coach for his high school son's team. "It's nice to be wanted and of course a college scholarship these days is a big deal, a financial incentive. He's said he's wanted to play Division-I football for a long time and it's looking like he may get that opportunity."
But where to go?
"Right now the Griz are big; South Dakota, Northern Arizona is really interested," Colin Bingham listed off some top suitors, before addressing following in his dad's footsteps. "It'd definitely be an incredible atmosphere to play in (Washington-Grizzly Stadium) and that's definitely an influence."
The junior Bingham grew up watching Griz games in Missoula with his dad, but he said his mind is far from made up. And Guy is letting the process play out, offering direction only when called upon.
"He wants me to get out of the state so he can come visit the warmer weather areas," Colin joked. "No, but he's kind of leaving it up to me.
" 'Do what you want, Colin,' is his advice."