By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
We've asked the most popular person to ever walk the halls of Libby High School to be our guest picker this week.
And no, it's not former Montana governor Marc Racicot, who led the Loggers to its first and only state basketball title in 1966.
It's been said that Racicot was one of the most popular governors in Montana history. After winning the governorship in 1992, Racicot was overwhelmingly re-elected with 80 percent of the vote, the largest winning percentage for a governor in Montana's history and the largest winning percentage for any U.S. Governor in 1996.
But all of that doesn't mean he is the most popular person to come out of Libby. Nope, that honor belongs to Vince Huntsberger.
To be perfectly honest, the former Grizzly football player would give Racicot a run for his money if the two were to run for mayor of Libby.
Huntsberger, a three-time defensive MVP of the Big Sky Conference, is one of the most well-liked people not only in Libby, but in the state of Montana.
Maybe it's because there is no political agenda for Huntsberger. While growing up in Libby and playing for the Griz, he exhibited a selflessness that earned people's devotion and respect.
When I first met Vince in Missoula, he was coming off his sophomore year in which he won his first Big Sky Conference defensive player of the year. Only I didn't know who he was. Of course, I knew who Vince was on the field, but I didn't know the guy I was talking to following a pick-up game of basketball was the same guy that decapitated people on the football field.
As I got to know Vince, I realized that I wasn't the first person who couldn't believe this goofy kid was the best defensive player in the Big Sky.
While he might have seemed unimpressive in his appearance, he was one of the most impressive people I had ever met.
He carried a 3.9 GPA in pre-med, he spent his free time helping in the community, he never got into any trouble off the field, he was a terror on the field and most of important of all, he wasn't very impressed that he was a football player.
"The guy next to me in chemistry class is just as important as I am," he told me in an interview once. "Just because I put the pads on every Saturday ... it's a privilege and an honor. But how can you look down upon someone who doesn't, someone who is up in the stands instead? For whatever reason, I have the ability to play, but that doesn't mean you're a better than the person in your chemistry class or the professor who's teaching it."
When I wrote that lengthy Gameday feature piece on Vince, I wrote that he was the NCAA's "poster boy for student athletes." It couldn't have been more true. I submitted the article for a writing competition and one of the judges wrote: "It's too bad there aren't more Vince Huntsberger's playing college football today."
Vince was so beloved that the Libby Junior High called the college paper asking for at least 50 copies of the Gameday issue.
The list of his accomplishments athletically and academically is longer than one of mine or George's weekly columns. But it's the stuff that doesn't appear on a resume that speaks volumes about the type of person he is.
The stories are endless. Whether it was his decision in high school to have Jan Dado, a foreign exchange student, live with his family. Dado, who was from Cherynobl, had no hair or eyebrows because of the nuclear reactor accident and Vince chose him because he figured no one else would.
Or the story of Vince returning home to Libby every year on the anniversary of his friend Sam Erickson's death to accompany Sam's mother to the cemetery.
Racicot doesn't stand a chance against him. But Vince isn't entertaining a career in politics any time soon.
As much as it pains me to write this, Vince is currently attending medical school at Montana State.
He isn't certain what kind of doctor he's going to be yet - you decide that in your third year - but he does have an idea of what kind of doctor he won't be.
"I won't be neurosurgeon, an OB/GYN, or a proctologist," he said. "I would rather be in orthopedics, family practice or pediatrics, something general."
Those of us who have played hoops with Vince or witnessed the countless interceptions he dropped on the field - including one in the I-AA championship game - are also thankful that he isn't going into brain surgery.
Still, med school at MSU? Isn't there someplace he could've gone besides Bozeman? How can one of the greatest defensive backs in Grizzly history go to school at MSU? If the guy wasn't my friend, I'd have brandished him a traitor. Thankfully, he is pretty unassuming otherwise he'd be setting himself up for constant teasing.
"I have had a few people come up to me and ask if I was the same guy that played for the Griz," he said. "When I tell them yes, they've got a few comments, usually about last year's game. It doesn't bother me."
It must not because Vince has even taken in a few Cat games in person this year. He was more than a little surprised about their slow start.
"I knew the Cats' defense was good, they're always pretty good," he said. "But I don't understand how their offense can be so blah. Their offensive coordinator has no creativity. They have all these great athletes and all they do is throw 3-yard-outs."
Speaking of slow starts, Vince has also paid pretty close attention to the Grizzlies slow start this season. Following the loss to NDSU, he could only roll his eyes as several Grizzly fans turned into Chicken Little and we're convinced the sky was falling.
"Obviously, (head coach Bobby Hauck) wasn't trying to lose," Huntsberger said. "It was like when we lost to Hofstra in Joe Glenn's first game. We didn't want to lose, but it happened and everyone thought all hell was breaking loose. The real fans that have a clue understand that sometimes teams lose and can take the loss. Believe me the players are taking the loss harder than the fans ever could."