Former Capital High standout and University of Montana defensive end Caleb Kidder has signed with the New England Patriots.
Kidder signed with New England after Chase Farris was waived with a non-football injury designation on July 20 due to a torn Achilles tendon.
"I just got a call (Tuesday) saying that they wanted to bring me in and work me out and that doesn't mean a whole lot," Kidder said. "That just means they want to work me out. They already bought a return flight. They called me in, worked me out and I was just expecting to fly back to Montana and they pulled me in the office and signed me right after the workout. It was awesome."
The afternoon's whirlwind continued immediately after Kidder signed.
"They told me, 'You have 10 minutes to get to your position meeting. So get to the room,'" he said. "It was a crazy day.
"I’m on Cloud Nine, but I’m definitely gonna catch some Zs tonight, for sure. It’s crazy. It’s been a roller coaster. Ups and downs, and just a humbling experience. To say 'I’m playing for the Patriots' -- really, any NFL team. But it’s even cooler to say 'I’m on the Patriots' rather than saying 'I’m unemployed.'"
The Helena native played for Montana from 2012 to 2016, and wore the coveted No. 37 jersey -- for native Montanans who put in hard work, dedication and tough play -- for his final two seasons.
During his time as a Griz, he was named first team All-Big Sky in 2015 as a defensive tackle and second team All-Big Sky in 2016 as a defensive end. He had 29 ½ tackles for loss, 14 sacks and 194 total tackles during his five years as a Griz.
Kidder went undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft and was picked up by the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent. The Vikings released Kidder on July 21.
Thinking he had a chance to do something special with the team he'd worked out with over the last three months, Kidder said it was a rough few days ahead of the Pats' call.
"It was hard to stay positive. It was a down week," he said. "I had to keep looking for the silver lining in everything, and I just kept telling myself that things happen for a reason. I kept telling that to myself, and finally something came up -- and I’m happy where I’m at and loving Boston."
Before playing for Montana, Kidder suited up for Capital, and was named Montana’s Gatorade Player of the Year his senior year after leading the 12-1 Bruins to the State AA title. He is positioned to join a short list of Helenans to have played in either the AFL or NFL. As it stands, that list includes John Dolan, Earle “Pruney” Parsons, Bob McCullough, Pat Donovan and Dan Carpenter.
"He’s excited. He works hard," Capital coach Kyle Mihelish said. "It’s neat for not just Capital, but for the city of Helena and Montana. It’s something that doesn’t happen very often, a kid getting this opportunity. He’s gone up to Washington and trained and done anything and everything he can to get a shot, and I hope it works out for him.
"He was a very special football player for us. Not only is he a great football player, he was very good in the classroom and was a very well-respected young man. He’s worked for it. He did a lot of the right things."
For his part, Kidder gives much credit to Mihelish.
"I’d have to say that the main guy that pushed me to D-line and who started me to who I am today is Coach Mihelish. He was an amazing defensive line coach for me, and he got me to the position. And playing with the University of Montana, I give credit to the coaches there that coached me through the years. But I can’t forget my roots, and that's Helena and Capital High school and Coach Mihelish."
The Patriots will begin training camp Thursday in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and Kidder will be there.
It won't be long before the team has to cut down to a 53-man roster, and the former Bruin plans to make the most of every day -- all the while getting used to an environment about as different from Montana and Minnesota as is possible.
"Yeah, the Boston accent," he said with a laugh. "The Boston accent is the weirdest thing so far. But I like it. I'm hoping I'm here long enough to pick it up."