By Robert Lucke
Former receiver is really starting to enjoy the game
Northern quarterback No. 17, Brandon Kerkes, is from Centerville. And when he played high school football, being a quarterback was the furthermost thing from his mind.
"I started playing football in the seventh grade," he said. "In high school I was a tight end and a linebacker. I did really want to be a quarterback but we already had one so I knew I wouldn't play that position."
That thought continued when Kerkes got to Northern. He started playing the first year the program started. Like many, he has been here since the beginning.
"I was a receiver at Northern but since I started playing quarterback, I like it much better. I wasn't a very fast receiver," Kerkes said.
Kerkes has been sharing quarterback duties with Chris Jackson. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound junior has really begun to enjoy the game.
"I like everything about being the quarterback. I am pretty well in charge and I am always a part of each play," Kerkes said, smiling "I am just really learning how to be the leader of the team."
Kerkes is a junior in business management. He knows that there will be no football after college for him so he is savoring the moments as they occur.
"Lots of kids are going to school to be coaches. I am not going to do that," he said. "Twenty years down the road I don't have a clue what I will be doing. I hope I will be successful and be able to still be in Montana."
Kerkes does have a favorite college team other than his Lights.
"I am a Cat fan. Cats [Bobcats from MSU in Bozeman] are my team," Kerkes said.
Kerkes has made a home in Havre.
"You know when I first came to Havre, I went home every weekend. Now I love it," he said. "I have gotten to know lots of people and there is great hunting and fishing. There is always something to do now."
So now the big question. How are the Northern Lights going to do this year?
"Well, better than last year. We are looking at least for a winning season," Kerkes said. "We can't just come out looking for one or two wins. Carroll College is the team to beat. They killed us the last three years. This is the fifth time we have played them and we have to show up and play like we basically can."
He's been a fan of the sport since age 3
Butte native Chris Jackson has been playing football at Northern as long as there has been a program.
"This is the year for us," he said. "This year we hope to have a winning season. That we know we are going to do, but we want to pick up a conference championship as well."
That will happen if the gutsy quarterback has anything to say about it. Starting for Butte High in high school, Jackson has football in his blood.
"I think I got my first pair of pads when I was about 3," Jackson said. "I had a Penn State uniform. My dad was a hockey player and he always wanted me to play hockey but there was a conflict because they are played at the same time so I played football from high school on."
Being from Butte, he found Havre a shock at first.
"I had been to Great Falls and north from there into Canada but when I left Great Falls that first time on the way to Havre, I thought Havre would be just over the hill," he said. "It seemed like the longest road anywhere and when I finally got here I thought it was the longest trip ever. Now that I have lived here for a while I really like it. And like Butte, the people here are really appreciative of athletics."
Hardest of all was being the only person here from Butte High. Jackson had no connections and found himself playing football with fellows from football teams and towns he had not even heard of. That is better this year as former Butte classmate Brian Dennehy is playing football with Jackson.
The Northern win/loss record was 2-8 last year. If Jackson has anything to say about it, that record will drastically improve this season.
The business major has a favorite NFL team and quarterback but has patterned his life after two others.
"The Dolphins are my team and Dan Marino is my quarterback but in my case, I have really been influenced by Doug Flutie and Dave Dickenson, who came from the Canadian Football League and had to overcome big odds because of their size," Jackson said.
Jackson is 5 foot 9 and weighs 190.
He is not planning a Flutie/Dickenson career for himself.
"I would love to be a coach but I don't want to go into education. That is sort of hard to do. I would like the opportunity to coach at the college level but as for a career in football, playing at the college level is as far as I will go," Jackson said.