Billings West’s one-of-a-kind athlete Chris Garcia to play football at Montana Tech

BILLINGS — Chris Garcia is a one-of-a-kind type of person.

The multi-talented Billings West athlete has excelled in football, wrestling and track and field for the Golden Bears over the years.

The 6-foot-1 Garcia, who weighed 200 pounds during football season, was an offensive lineman, linebacker and long snapper for the Bears this past season. He recently committed to play football for Montana Tech of the Frontier Conference, where he’ll be a linebacker and long snapper.

Garcia said he’ll receive a scholarship from the Orediggers.

“I’m supper happy to be able to go to college,” Garcia said. “I’m super happy to be part of a super awesome program. It seems like something I really want to be a part of and that’s why I’m so excited about it.”

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Garcia has been selected for the East team for the Montana East-West Shrine Game this summer, where he’ll play outside linebacker.

This past fall, Garcia was a first-team all-state long snapper and an honorable mention all-state inside linebacker.

Rob Stanton, Garcia’s football coach at West, said Garcia was a running back in the West program for his first two years and into his junior season.

When the Bears were later looking for help at the tight end position, the coaches turned to Garcia.

“We wanted to put in some more tight end packages and then Chris Garcia’s name came up,” Stanton said. “He was playing long snapper.

“We put him in against (Billings) Senior and he played tight end and he had a role in our offense from then on.”

Once again, the Bears needed some help on the offensive line and they turned to who else but Garcia.

“We had a couple offensive line injuries and we asked him if he could play O-line,” said Stanton. “He said ‘If I can play football, I will play anywhere.’ He would even make comments at practice when kids would complain. He’d say, ‘Dude, you are playing football.’”

With that kind of versatility, Stanton marveled, “There are not too many people on the planet who would go from running back to tight end to offensive line.”

This past season at West, Garcia also was honored with the No. 4 Michael Guelff jersey. The jersey is in honor of the deceased Guelff, a former standout player at West who died at age 22 as a result of a car accident in 2009.

Usually the player who wears the Michael Guelff jersey is a skill position player as Guelff was a standout wide receiver at West and later at Montana Western. The player chosen to wear the jersey is a senior and has been in the program for four years.

This year, Garcia would occasionally wear the No. 4 jersey prior to the games, but would have to switch to No. 50 for the game due to his position. Stanton explained that Guelff “loved football and bled West football and Chris fits that mold pretty darn good. He’s a very loyal kid.”

“They don’t have to be the best player,” explained Stanton of the selection process for being honored to wear the No. 4 jersey. “As coaches, we bring up a bunch of names and we discuss it and narrow it down.

“This year it was pretty hands-down, Chris Garcia even though he plays O-Line.”

Garcia recalled when he learned how to be long snapper with instruction from the coach during his youth football days. While filling the long snapper role wasn’t something he’d envisioned, Garcia did take to the position eagerly because he knew it was something he could help the team with.

“Before you knew it, I was the long snapper for all my teams and progressed and got better,” he said.

Garcia is also a top wrestler for the Bears team. While he started playing youth flag football at an early age, Garcia has been wrestling for over a decade.

Currently, he is the fifth-ranked wrestler in Class AA at 182 pounds for the second-ranked Golden Bears.

Last season, Garcia placed fourth at the State AA wrestling tourney at 182 pounds. He was second in the classification at the state tourney in 2021.

“My goals are to just to be as good as I possibly can at wrestling and finish this last year and enjoy it as I’ll never wrestle again after this year at a competitive level,” Garcia said. “I’ll just enjoy the level and competition.”

Garcia, who has a 3.3 overall grade-point average and plans on taking business courses at Tech, wasn’t too worried about getting back up to his football-playing weight.

“I’ll balloon up right after wrestling gets over,” he said with a laugh.

West wrestling coach Jeremy Hernandez said over the years Garcia has displayed a tremendous work ethic.

“I am super proud of Chris,” Hernandez said. “His hard work and dedication are huge reasons why he was recruited to Tech. Tech is getting a phenomenal student-athlete and he will make that program better.”

Garcia also participated in track and field his sophomore year for the Bears. He competed in the javelin and discus and qualified for state in the javelin. A shoulder injury led to him retiring from track and field, but Garcia said he enjoyed his time in the sport.

Overall, Garcia is thrilled that next fall he will be stepping on the football field at Montana Tech. The opportunity will give him a chance to grow even more as a unique individual.

“I’m super happy honestly. That has been the goal since I started playing sports,” he said of taking his skills to the collegiate level. “It’s awesome when you succeed at that goal.”

Email Gazette Sports Editor John Letasky at john.letasky@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL

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Travis Burnett

Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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