BUTTE — The halls of Butte Central Catholic High School were filled with students, family members and university personnel Wednesday, where Eagan Lester and Bryan Holland signed to play football at the collegiate level.
Both athletes were celebrated not just for their athletic achievement, but for their academic achievements as well. Both Lester and Holland hold a GPA above 4.0, as Lester signed with Montana Tech and Holland signed with Carroll College.
"Kids in our school and our program are getting opportunities and that's what you want to see as a coach," said Butte Central football coach Don Peoples.
"Seeing them go on with their education through football really makes us proud," Peoples continued. "I know both of those guys will go on to have great academic and athletic careers, and at two great schools."
The celebration began with principal J.P. Williams addressing Lester and Holland, Butte Central seniors and family members on the difficulties of the past academic and athletic year.
Williams expressed that he was proud of the senior class for continuing to work hard through the obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, then introduced Holland who was the first to sign.
Holland, Carroll College
Bryan Holland, better known as "Hugo" when in uniform, said he plans to play defensive end and linebacker for the Saints. He also said he plans to study engineering as he develops as a football player.
The 200-pound senior is a multi-sport athlete and is currently a key player on the Maroons' basketball team. Holland said he may try to gain weight come football season, and that his athletic passions have helped him in the classroom.
"Football creates a lot of structure and teaches you values, time management was a big one," Holland said. "It creates balance, teaches you how to work hard and persevere through anything. If I can take those values into school, I'll be just fine."
Holland chose Carroll College long before Wednesday's signing. He said that he took a visit to the campus last summer, and connected with the coaches and team. Holland's high school coach Don Peoples, also graduated from Carroll College.
After being congratulated and posing for photos, Holland said he was excited to join Carroll, but will never forget the feeling of family he experienced at Butte Central for four years.
"My biggest takeaway here is the family aspect, when you work hard with others you create that bond that can never be broken," said Holland. "I'll never forget my friends or my coaches here, because they got me to where I am today."
Lester, Montana Tech
The celebration continued when Eagan Lester signed with Montana Tech with an undefined position. Lester said he plans to play slot receiver and running back for the Orediggers.
Lester said he is happy to stay home in Butte and represent the Orediggers, an idea supported by Montana Tech football coach Kyle Samson.
"His speed and his toughness will make him a heck of a player for us. I think he'd be a great defensive back, but like I said he's a tough kid," Samson said. "We want to get the ball in his hands. He's another great Butte kid, not just a great player but a 4.0 student so that's pretty great."
Lester said he is uncertain of his college major, but sports medicine is of high interest to him. Lester was known for his speed, reflexes and versatility as a Maroon football player.
The recruitment process for Lester began in the summer before his senior year. He said that while he was playing for the Maroons, Montana Tech personnel would wish him well before games. This stuck with Lester, as he will join the Orediggers this season.
"It's nice to stay home, don't have to worry about dorms or anything, I can just get to work," Lester said. "I want to thank my friends and family and all my coaches for getting me this far."
"I don't know if Carroll was the right decision (for Holland) but I know Tech is," Lester joked. "Montana Tech felt like home, it felt like family."
Blake Fussell covers sports in and around Butte. Follow Blake on Twitter @blake_fussell