By COLTER NUANEZ
The speculation is over. Tanner Roderick is coming home.
One of the most electrifying prep stars in the history of Treasure State confirmed to Bobcat Beat on Sunday evening that he is the newest Montana State Bobcat.
The Bozeman native has spent the last two seasons at the University of Nevada-Reno. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder quarterback will have three years of eligibility remaining and will be eligible right away.
Roderick is enrolled at MSU and will start classes and winter workouts on Wednesday. He majored in business administration at Nevada and will continue to pursue the degree at MSU.
“The determining factor is the program is going in the right direction,” said Roderick, who will play wide receiver his first season in Bozeman. “I wanted to play with a great team and be a part of something and help out wherever I could.”
Roderick joins a Bobcat roster with four scholarship quarterbacks and five active signal callers on the roster. DeNarius McGhee will enter his senior season after guiding the Bobcat helm the last three seasons. The senior-to-be is MSU’s all-time leader in quarterback wins (30) and touchdowns (71). Redshirt freshman Jake Bleskin was McGhee’s backup in 2012. Freshman Dakota Prukop, an Austin, Texas native, redshirted last season, as did Columbia Falls product Austin Barth. Mitch Greibel, a former walk-on at Air Force, had similar status in Bozeman last fall.
Ever the competitor, he said he wants to get on the field as soon as possible, even if it’s not under center.
“They have DeNarius and he is a great, great quarterback,” Roderick said. “I will get to play receiver for a year, help out there, learn the offense as well as I can and then the following year, hopefully get to play quarterback.”
Roderick set the Montana prep scene on fire as a senior at Bozeman High School in 2010-11. He was the state Gatorade Player of the Year in football and basketball, marking just the third time a Montana athlete claimed the prestigious award in two sports. Former Bozeman High standouts Shane Collins (football, basketball, 1986-87) and Kirsten Tilleman (soccer, basketball (2006-07) captured multiple awards.
In football, Roderick led Bozeman to its first state title since 1917 and just the second in school history. He led Class AA in passing and rushing, throwing for 2,457 yards and 28 touchdowns and rushing for 1,913 yards and 23 touchdowns. Both were school records. Roderick rushed for 185 yards and a touchdown in Bozeman’s 28-7 win in the 2010 Class AA state title game to cap a 13-0 season.
In basketball, Roderick was equally as dominant. He led the Hawks to a 22-1 record, capped by a 26-point effort in Bozeman’s 61-53 state championship game victory over Billings West. Roderick averaged 19 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.5 steals as a senior.
Roderick was one of six quarterbacks on the Wolfpack roster last fall. As a sophomore, Cody Fajardo completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,786 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushed for 1,121 yards and 12 more touchdowns in earning All-Mountain West honors. The 2011 Mountain West Newcomer of the Year will enter his third season as a starter in 2013. Sophomore Devin Combs (6-2, 215) played in five games last season. Tyler Stewart (6-4, 215), Jacob Hollister (6-3, 215) and Hasaan Henderson (6-5, 215) were all true freshmen in 2012 for Nevada.
Roderick never took a snap as a member of the Wolfpack.
Roderick initially chose Nevada over Montana State, Montana and Washington State because of head coach Chris Ault’s famed pistol offense, an attack Roderick became familiar with in high school. After 36 seasons and 223 wins as the head coach in Reno, Ault retired late last month.
“Nevada is a great school and a great program,” Roderick said. “The quarterback in front of me is a great quarterback and I wanted to see the field as soon as I could. I thought the best decision for me was to leave and go somewhere else.”
Roderick was heavily recruited by Montana State, Montana and Washington State before Nevada came in late.
When he was granted his release from Nevada, both the Cats and the Griz pulled heavily. He was in Missoula earlier this week visiting with UM head coach Mick Delaney. But the upward momentum of a Bobcat program that’s made the FCS quarterfinals the last two seasons was too much to pass up.
“Montana is a great program and I was interested there, but being around my family and getting a chance to play for the Bobcats like my dad was too much to pass up,” said Roderick, whose dad Steve played for MSU in the late 1970s and early 1980s. “He wasn’t pressuring me at all. He wanted me to make the right decision for me and go where I wanted to go. My parents have always been very supportive and have always helped steered me in the right direction.
Now he will return home to a Montana State squad that has won 30 games and captured shares of three straight Big Sky Conference championships. The 20-year-old knows the spotlight will shine brightly upon him, but his competitive nature helps him welcome the challenge.
“I don’t really think of it as pressure, more that it should be really fun,” Roderick said. “Coming back to where I was raised, where I went to high school and try to keep being a great competitor should be fun.”
Roderick was being pulled in multiple directions and his return to Montana has been a topic of much conversation this holiday season. A chance to be close to his family and friends — former Hawks Heath Hunter and Manny Kalfell are Bobcats — combined with the chance to play for a top-tier FCS program was too much to pass up.
“Being around my family and being able to be around the people that have loved and supported me growing up was probably the biggest factor,” Roderick said.