BOZEMAN — Brayden Konkol’s fate was sealed not long after he entered this world when his parents, Josh and Stacy, bestowed upon him the middle name “Lambeau.”
There was no doubt from that moment that Konkol was born to be a football player.
Konkol’s namesake is steeped within National Football League history. A century ago, Curly Lambeau was a founder of the storied Green Bay Packers franchise. He won six NFL titles and was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s inaugural class. Lambeau's name graces the Packers' hallowed stadium.
Konkol smiles when asked about his birthright.
“Huge Packers fans,” he said. “I didn’t really have a choice with that.
“I’m passionate about football. I was always around it growing up, always watching it on Sundays with my dad, playing it with my friends.”
Konkol runs like Hornung and hits like Nitschke, which makes him the perfect complement as a strong safety within Montana State’s rugged defensive unit. A fifth-year senior from Belgrade, Konkol is also a relentless student of the game, and he understands the entire defensive scheme.
This allows him to at times wander from his desired position to make an impact elsewhere on the field. In recent weeks Konkol has been playing closer to the line of scrimmage as a means to help defend the run.
At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Konkol, as coach Jeff Choate has said, has a linebacker body type and brings a linebacker presence to the secondary. He’s one of the surest tacklers on the team, but has also shown the ability to cover receivers down the field.
When you combine smarts with athletic talent, this is what you get.
“A lot of that versatility comes with my knowledge of the game and because I love it and I enjoy studying it,” said Konkol, whose dad played two years as a defensive lineman at MSU. “I’ve played free safety, rover, Sam, Will, nickel, dime-backer … I’ve played a lot of spots. A lot of it just comes from knowledge of the game.”
“A lot of people think I can’t cover because I’m a big white boy from Belgrade,” he said. “But I work on it every day. I know that’s what a lot of people think, so it’s something that I try to work even harder on.”
In seventh grade, Konkol wanted to be a running back. But he didn’t get many touches and he wondered if it wasn’t time to hang up his cleats and focus on something else.
But his desire to compete made him think twice, and his eighth-grade season was, in his words, the most fun he’s ever had on the football field.
In high school, Konkol helped Belgrade make the Class A playoffs in three straight years (the Panthers have since moved up to AA). He played both quarterback and linebacker beginning in his junior season, and that year the Panthers advanced to the semifinals.
He played high school football with MSU defensive lineman Derek Marks, a distant cousin who Konkol said is his best friend.
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A torn meniscus forced Konkol to miss much of his senior year, but by the time he arrived at MSU in the fall of 2015 he was focused on making an impact for the program he paid close attention to growing up right in his back yard.
“My dream school was Michigan,” Konkol said with a smile. “But I knew if MSU offered I was going to come here.”
In 43 career games with the Bobcats, Konkol has made 237 total tackles. He has defended/broken up 40 passes, has intercepted four others and recovered four fumbles.
Konkol and safety partners Jahque Alleyne and JoJo Henderson, who are also seniors, give the Bobcats a formidable trio in the defensive backfield.
“It’s kind of a three-headed monster, really,” Choate said. “I think JoJo Henderson is a guy that probably is playing as well as those other two guys, and he’s just not maybe getting as much (time). But those three guys have been really, really good for us.
“We’re going to have to hustle to replace not just the production but also the leadership and the experience level when you have three seniors that are playing the way those three are.”
Konkol, who is on track to graduate with a degree in construction engineering technology, has also played a key role in Montana State’s current three-game winning streak over rival Montana, games that he said represent his greatest memories as a Bobcat so far.
“3-0,” said Konkol, knowing full well that MSU hadn’t won three straight against the Griz since 1983-85. “Those are great memories. I can’t imagine losing that game or how I’d feel.”
Konkol, though, remains focused on the task at hand. He and the No. 12-ranked Bobcats (6-3, 3-2 Big Sky) travel this week to play league rival Northern Colorado (2-7, 2-3).
Fresh off last week’s 42-7 home win over Southern Utah, MSU will be favored to beat the Bears. But Konkol knows the Bobcats don’t have much room for error if they are to make the postseason for a second consecutive season.
The Bobcats are 8-3 in November games in Choate’s four-year tenure as coach, and they hope to continue on that trajectory this season.
“Oh, I’m confident,” he said. “Remember November. We’re finishers. I think last week was a huge stepping stone for us, the way we won. It was a pretty good performance and it’s something we can build on and just keep getting momentum going into the next few games.”
Brayden Lambeau Konkol has football in his blood, and he believes the Bobcats’ best days are still ahead of them.
MSU is just thankful to have him on its side.