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Troy Purcell

Carroll College coach Troy Purcell directs a practice during spring camp. Purcell was a linebacker for four seasons before he graduated in 1990. Now he is coaching his first game back at Carroll. 

HELENA — It’s just before 6 o’clock in the morning during fall camp.

Troy Purcell gathers his thoughts, and then runs out onto the field to signal the start of practice.

Though he has only been at Carroll College since last winter, running out to the start of a Saints practice isn’t new for him.

It just reminds him of his past, when he donned the Saints’ purple and gold as a linebacker.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pound hometown kid from Helena Capital spent the next four years helping the Saints win four consecutive Frontier Conference titles and three NAIA Tournament appearances.

But now, Purcell has a different job.

Last December, he was given his dream job. Purcell was announced as the Saints 21st head football coach.

“It’s good to be home,” Purcell said at his introductory press conference back in December 2018. “I was looking at old pictures (at the Carroll P.E. Center) and they brought back a lot of memories.”

Fast forward nine months and it’s less than 48 hours before Carroll’s season opener at Montana Western.

“I'm excited more than I am nervous,” Purcell said. “I just want our kids to perform and go out there and play hard.”

After all, that was the type of player Purcell wanted to be growing up.

The former Bruin switched from fullback to linebacker during his sophomore season at Carroll, and it didn’t take long before he embraced the new position.

His former coach Bob Petrino, Sr. was quoted in the Independent Record back in 1989 calling Purcell “a hard-nosed linebacker, an alley cat type of guy.”

“It was a little different back then,” Purcell said with a smile. “I knew growing up, no matter what, I wanted to be a Saint.”

Purcell might be walking into Week 1 as a new college football coach, about to write a new chapter, not only in his life, but at Carroll College, as well.

He doesn’t look at his new job as being in unfamiliar territory.

Football is football, no matter what level it is.

“There are 11 guys playing against 11 guys. You can line them up however you want to line them up,” Purcell said.

That doesn’t mean there will not be challenges, whether they come against Montana Western or down the line.

“It’s a lot easier playing than coaching,” Purcell said. “You can always control yourself, but you can’t control the (entire) offense, defense and special teams. You just have to make sure everything goes in the right direction.”

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Ryan Kuhn covers Carroll College athletics for the Independent Record and 406mtsports.com. Email him at ryan.kuhn@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @rskuhn

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