Ask Matt Stepan to define "dream job," and the answer comes easily: It's what he does every day.
Stepan, 36, Montana Tech's athletic director, ticks off the reasons: "Working in athletics, for my alma mater, in my hometown: Perfect."
Born and reared in Butte, Stepan went to Butte Central, where he was a football and wrestling star. "I was the typical 170-pound Butte Central lineman," he says with the ghost of a grin. "I played both ways, all-state in offense and all-conference in defense."
He said that when he visited Montana Tech on a recruiting trip, the legendary Coach Bob Green told him, "We'd love to have you walk on, but I'm out of scholarship money."
Stepan was wrestling for Butte Central at the time, and he headed into the state championships as the No. 3-rated 171-pounder in the state.
Green was at the tournament, because his grandson was wrestling, and he saw Stepan's championship match.
The next weekend, he came to Stepan's house and offered him a full scholarship.
"He said somebody had 'de-committed,' Stepan said. "We had a few good laughs about that over the years."
On the football field, Stepan followed closely in his father's footsteps. His dad played at Butte Central, then went to Tech and played four years, from 1975-79. Stepan went to Tech, redshirted in 1999, then played four years as a defensive end.
When Stepan graduated with a degree in business, with a management emphasis, he went to work for Kiewit Construction as a project engineer on the massive Bay Bridge rebuilding project.
After a stint as a project manager and construction engineer for Granite Construction in Utah, Stepan felt it was time to take his family home.
He and his wife Sarah began dating when she was 14 and he was 15. An accomplished athlete also, Sarah Thatcher was an all-state softball player for Central on a team that won a record 52 straight games.
"It was always our plan" to come back to Butte, Stepan says, and come back they did. He launched a financial counseling business and began reconnecting with the community he loves.
He was asked to volunteer with the Butte Wrestling Club and Mining City Little Guys football, and did both, eventually serving as president of both organizations, a title he still holds with the wrestling club.
Then, he got a call from Chuck Morrell, the Tech football coach who was interim athletic director at the time. Soon he became associate athletic director. Then, this September, he took over as AD.
"I can't imagine a better opportunity to serve the school that opened doors for me, in my own community," Stepan says. He points to Green and Morrell as mentors and supporters, and also mentioned Joe McClafferty, president of the Montana Tech Foundation and a former Tech athletic director, as a source of support.
He and Sarah have three children: Will, 10, Mattie, 9, and Ty, known to all as T-Bone, 6.
Stepan has also served as treasurer of the Friends of Stodden Park Committee.
"I learned a long time ago to follow my father-in-law's lead: The only thing worth doing is serving your community," Stepan said.