BILLINGS — Trey Yates didn’t commit to play football at Montana State to simply follow in his big brother’s prominent footsteps. He wants to be his own man.
It’s true that Tucker Yates spent five years with the Bobcats, eventually becoming an All-Big Sky Conference interior lineman and a force behind one of the most decisive and historic plays in program history in Missoula last November.
But Trey, a senior-to-be at Colstrip High School who on June 22 announced his intent to join the Bobcats next fall, looks to carve out his own path. And playing at MSU was not initially a foregone conclusion.
“I just had this idea that, man, I’m going to be right in Tucker’s shadow. I’m always going to be remembered as Tucker’s little brother,” Trey Yates said this week. “I should go make a name for myself somewhere else instead of following my brother.
“But I talked to Tucker about it and he said, ‘They see you for who you are. They see you as a good football player. They don’t see you as my little brother.’”
Now that he’s committed, Yates is eager to prove he belongs.
Yates (6-foot-1, 250 pounds) has been playing on the offensive and defensive lines at Colstrip for the past three years. In that time, the Colts posted a combined 26-6 record with three Class B state playoff appearances.
He is also a prominent wrestler for Colstrip’s two-time reigning championship team, having made a pair of trips to the state finals with a Class B-C title victory at heavyweight last winter.
Yates said the only real offers he received to play football in college were from Montana State and Rocky Mountain College, the latter coming after he won defensive MVP at the Battlin’ Bears Big Man Camp earlier this month.
Yates said he was recruited to MSU primarily by special teams coach B.J. Robertson and offensive line coach Brian Armstrong. He expects to play defensive tackle (3-technique) for the Bobcats, a team he has grown to revere while watching his brother in recent years.
“I just love their intensity. I love the way they play football,” noted Trey, who said he was offered a half scholarship by MSU. “They’re a blue-collar team. They love to hit. They put their heads down and they get it done.”
Yates is the first known verbal commit to Montana State’s 2020 recruiting class. He said he plans to study business marketing.
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Yates knows it’s a difficult proposition to match or eclipse what his older brother accomplished during his time with the Bobcats. Tucker Yates was one of the team’s most important defensive performers, as evidenced by the play he helped make to preserve Montana State’s 29-25 victory over rival Montana last season.
With the Grizzlies set up on the Bobcats’ 1-yard line with 14 seconds left — after a shrewd timeout call by coach Jeff Choate negated a would-be touchdown on the previous sequence — Yates and linebacker Grant Collins forced a fumble from Montana running back Adam Eastwood. MSU’s Derek Marks recovered, and the rest is history.
The following week the Bobcats went on to claim their first playoff win in six years, a 35-14 home victory over Incarnate Word.
“At that moment I was like, ‘Oh my god. That’s my brother. That’s a small-town hero right there,’” Trey Yates said. “I was shocked. But in a way I saw it coming. I was watching him and I knew right away he was going to get at least a tackle for loss because his get-off was insane.
“He got off the ball faster than everybody. That’s how I knew he was going to win that battle. Then he just let his strength take over. Him and Grant Collins, another great player.
“For me, I just have to go in there and work extra hard. Make big plays like he did. I’ve got to make plays like that just to make my name stand out there.”
Tucker Yates played his senior season in 2018 at around 290 pounds. During his sophomore year he was closer to 300. Trey Yates said he hopes to play around 280 or 290 at the next level.
Tucker played nose guard in MSU’s defense, but he sees similarities between the brothers.
The two spent a couple weeks working out together in Bozeman during the spring.
“He’s a strong kid,” Tucker said of Trey. “He may not be as heavy as I was, but he’s probably just as strong. I just had a little more weight behind me. He’s strong, he’s athletic and he picks things up real quick. We do have similar styles.
“He’s a good technician, maybe because he’s been around me and the team so much lately. His hands and his feet are really good. He plays with his hands more than I did in high school. He plays real physical, too. You put those two together and it’s just the perfect mix.
“I tell Trey that you’re going to do things wrong here and there and you’re going to make mistakes. The coaches know that. (Choate) tells all the freshmen when they come in to keep your pads low, your head up and your mouth shut. That’s the advice that I would give him. Go in there, play hard, hustle to every drill and you’ll be fine. He’s a tough kid and he’s been through some tough practices already. He’s a wrestler so he knows how to grind. I think he’s going to thrive in this program. I’m really excited for him.”