Once upon a time, Scott Leeds used to tear the Blue Pony Stadium turf up as a speedy Havre High wide receiver and defensive back.
Then he did it in Helena for the Carroll College Fighting Saints.
But for the last 14 football seasons, Leeds has been teaching and helping others to tear up the turf at Blue Pony Stadium as the wide receiver
coach for the Montana State University-Northern Lights. And in those 14 seasons, Leeds has seen about everything you can see in college football. He’s coached all different types of players and influenced many young lives, and perhaps most importantly, he’s been there to help build the Northern football program from the ground up.
“Obviously, there’s been a lot of ups and downs over the years,” Leeds, who was a two-time Class A All-State performer for the Havre Blue Ponies of the early 1990’s said. “And the biggest thing that keeps bringing me back every year is the kids. I want to see them all succeed. Whether it’s a star player or a kid you’ve taken and helped develop over the years, they all grow while they’re here playing football and you want to see them all do well.
“That’s a big thing for me,” he added. “That and these relationships you build with the coaches, those are things that really keep you motivated and keep me coming back.”
And Leeds has come back, and back and back to Northern each and every year, despite holding down a full-time job with Triangle Telephone. He’s been a continuous part of the Lights’ staff since Northern brought back football, first under Walt Currie, and for the last nine seasons under Mark Samson. He’s worked with the receivers in all that time and also helps offensive coordinator Kyle Samson run the offense from the booth on game days.
This coming on the heels of a great college football career of his own. Leeds was a standout receiver for Carroll College under legendary head coach Bob Petrino. During Leeds’ time in Helena, the Saints won a Frontier Conference title in 1993 and Leeds was a First-Team All-Conference performer in 1994.
“There’s a lot of people who have influenced me as a coach, and even before when I was a player,” Leeds said. “I guess it all starts with Butch Damberger when I was a player at Havre High. He and Mickey Williams really helped me learn the game of football. And then I got the opportunity to coach with Mickey at Northern, and I was able to really value that time and learn from him.
“Of course, Coach Petrino at Carroll was a huge factor in me growing up, not just as a football player, but as a person. He made me understand how to be a winner and a better man. And when I got into coaching, of course it wouldn’t have even happened if it weren’t for Walt Currie. He gave me this opportunity and I will always be so grateful to him for that, because I wouldn’t probably be doing this all these years later if it wasn’t for him and that opportunity. But I’ve been really lucky to coach with some great people who really understand the game of football and I’ve learned from them all.”
And now, all these years later, many have had the great fortune of learning from Leeds, a coach Mark Samson said he had to have on his staff when he took over the Northern program in 2004.
“Scott was someone when I got here that I knew was going to be really important to have on my staff,” Samson said. “I needed to have someone who I knew very well, who I knew I could trust to get things done on the offensive side of the ball, so I realized right away keeping him on the staff was really important.
“When he was playing for us at Carroll, he was as competitive as anyone I’ve ever seen, and he still is,” Samson added. “Whether it’s game day, or on the practice field or in the film room, no matter what it is, he has a fire and competitiveness that you just love to be around. He hates to lose more than he loves to win. Scott Leeds is a winner and he brings that mentality to our football program every single day.”
There’s no doubt Leeds is a winner. Whether it was helping the Blue Ponies to Central A titles in football and basketball during a dream 1991-92 season in high school, or the Saints to a Frontier title and a playoff berth while at Carroll College, or even playing fastpitch softball or golf, Leeds has always helped his team win and he’s always been a leader.
Now he’s doing it at Northern, and it shows with all the great wide receivers who have come through the MSU-N program in Leeds’ time. Included in that conversation is the crew Leeds is currently in charge of, including Kyle Johnston, Brandon O’Brien, Orin Johnson, Mick Miller, Brandt Montelius and many more young up-and-comers.
“There have been a lot of them over the years,” Leeds said of the players he’s guided. “It would be hard to single out all the great kids I’ve been fortunate enough to coach, but obviously, it starts with Andy Smith. Athletically, he is still one of the best players I’ve ever coached. Guys like Tanner Woodward, Nick Bodeman and Matt Stuart and now KJ (Kyle Johnston), they really stick out because they are all very good football players, who make my job a little easier. They were all just really gifted players who worked very hard to get even better. And I really look back and am proud of what a guy like Danny Wirtzberger accomplished while he was here. He was a kid when we got him, who really didn’t even play wide receiver, but he worked hard, learned the position and ended up having a really good career here. He made a lot of big plays for us.
“This group of receivers we have now, no question they are one of the best if not the best group I’ve ever had,” Leeds added. “But I’ve been lucky to have coached so many great kids so far. And those are things that make you proud, and keep you going. That and wanting to see Northern keep moving forward. Just like I won a title as a player in college, I want to see Northern win a title now.”
And winning a conference championship is something Leeds is still striving to help with, 14 years after he started at Northern, 18 years after he graduated from Carroll, and even longer since the last time he played a game at Blue Pony Stadium. To this day, Leeds is still as passionate about Northern and Havre High, while still being a proud Carroll alum, and he’s still as passionate about the community he grew up in and the one that he now lives with his wife Kimberly and their five children, Brittany, Kayley, Justin, Taylor and Cael.
“I used to get asked a lot, but not as much anymore, if I ever have a hard time when we play Carroll,” Leeds said. “Players used to ask me about that a lot. I always say, I’m a Carroll alum, and when they are not playing us, I want them to have success. But when it’s game day and we’re (Lights) playing them, I want to beat them as badly as anybody.
“I grew up a Northern fan, when we didn’t even have football here,” Leeds added. “I grew up a huge fan of Northern sports and going to basketball games back then. And obviously, I’m a huge fan of Havre High. So I’m really proud that I got a chance to come back home and give back to these programs and to coach here at Northern. I’m very proud and it means a lot to me that I can help this program have success and I want it to keep going forward. I want to see this program win a conference championship and more. My goal while I’m here is to help get the most out of each and every player I coach, and to help get the most out of this program. Havre is a great football community and I’m really happy I got a chance to come back and be a part of that, to give back to my community and that really keeps me going each year.”