HELENA — Helena High quarterback Ty McGurran wasn't sure if the day he chose to commit to playing college football would ever come.
McGurran, who primarily played at the slot receiver position and as a backup quarterback during his junior year with the Bengals, suffered a setback when he fractured his ankle, an injury that would keep him off the field until Week 11 of the season.
The setback forced McGurran to commit himself to train in the offseason between his junior and senior year.
"The injury was devastating, and I worked all offseason to come back," McGurran said. "The injury made me think about my future."
With a limited timetable to impress prospective collegiate scouts, McGurran wasted no time working on improving his game.
"Only having one year instead of two is a huge difference in getting your name out there and getting recruited," McGurran said. "After my junior season, I decided to make the most of my senior year to get the job done."
The time in the gym paid dividends.
McGurran, who became the Bengals starting quarterback his senior year, achieved his goals by leading the team in total offensive yards and completion percentage, was named an honorable mention all-state player and was also named the Independent Record's Offensive Player of The Year.
All of McGurran's accolades opened the door for him to play college football, and on Dec. 23 he announced on Twitter his commitment to Montana Tech.
Bengals coach Scott Evans noticed the transformation in McGurran's football acumen from his junior to senior season.
"He did a much better job manipulating things and improved in certain facets of his game," Evans said. "He was a hard-nosed runner and great at adapting his skill set at the quarterback position. As soon as he did that, he got better on offense where he could utilize his skills more."
Quarterbacking the Bengals to a 9-3 record and guiding them to the Class AA semifinal appearance turned out to be just the start of McGurran's phenomenal year.
McGurran has been a best friend and teammate with running back Grady Koenig since playing on a flag football team together since the first grade. Both announced their commitments to the Orediggers at the same time.
"We became buddies in Day Care when we were four or five years old, and we did everything together," McCurran said. "We fished, we hunted and played sports together, and we did that all the way through high school. Now, I will potentially room with him at Tech. It's awesome to have another college teammate to share so many interests with."
McGurran, who is projected to play at the inside slot receiver position, and Koenig, who is viewed as primarily an H-Back, a combination of a fullback, and blocking tight end, will both look to contribute to the Orediggers' program.
With three Bengals going to the Orediggers including Koenig, McGurran and Jacob Howell, it should make the transition from high school ball to college more successful, Evans said.
"That is one of our goals as high school coaches is to get players to play at the college level and get them another level of education," Evans said. "We try to get them encouraged at a very young age, and we make sure we get the kids that have a chance an opportunity to play football at a higher level."
Evans knows the change from the high school level to the NAIA college level is great, and because three of his former players are signing together, he said he felt it would make the change easier.
"I think they now have someone they can lean on," Evans said. "They can lean on each other for support through tough times and challenges and have a buddy working with them at it. It makes for better camaraderie to have a pal next to you. You just can't beat that."
Koenig, who announced his commitment to Tech via Twitter on Dec. 23, said he is looking forward to another four years with McGurran.
"It's pretty awesome," Koenig said. "We've been playing football together and doing lots of things together. I've had my mind set on Tech and it's great that we can continue our football career and our friendship. That is a pretty cool thing that two guys from the same school can play ball at the college level."
Koenig said the synergistic relationship he developed with McGurran is invaluable.
"It's going to be cool, we already know each other so well and it is going to be unique to get a chance to show that at the collegiate level," Koenig said. "We work so well together."
McGurran, who said he's been a 4.0 GPA student for the majority of his career, said he is excited about the prospects Tech brings.
"The school is pretty awesome, and just how Tech coach Chuck Morrell handles the athletes and forces them to go to class is pretty awesome," McGurran said. "You don't always see the emphasis on athletics and academics very often."
Both McGurran and Koenig will join a strong recruiting class in the state of Montana.
"I think it's awesome that there are so many Montana kids and you put them together on one squad," Koenig said. "There are so many Montana football players on the team because Tech does a great job recruiting in-state football players. Getting a chance to play football with all of these players in Montana should be a good experience."