Mark Fellows was a first-team All-Big Sky and All-American his senior season at Montana State University. He holds school records for sacks in a season and during a career. He has since been inducted into MSU's Hall of Fame.

No matter how important any of those achievements might be to him personally, Fellows doesn't boast. In fact, he doesn't say much about them at all. What mattered to him then and what matters to him now remain the same: He's proud to have made a contribution to a championship team.

"Here's a good way to put it: Personal achievements are moments in life, but winning a championship is a lifetime accomplishment," Fellows said. "I have a (championship) ring, just like (former MSU player and coach) Sonny Holland does. It's something we all share, from the freshmen on up.

"Winning All-Big Sky and All-America was my deal. But when I go back to Bozeman, what people talk about are the championships. When you hear that, you have the feeling we did something right."

Fellows, now 44, was one of the defensive stars of MSU's run to the 1984 Big Sky and Division I-AA national championships. He recorded 23 sacks that season and finished his career with 40. Both remain school records.

But when asked about his statistics, he discusses them only in terms of the overall success of the team.

"We were pretty good overall, I would say," he said. "It takes a secondary to cover receivers and linebackers to cover running backs. I'm not sure it will ever be one person. As much as anything, I like to think we were good."

Fellows grew up in Lodgegrass, but his family moved to Choteau when he was in the fourth grade. For reasons he says he can't quite articulate about his experiences on the Crow Indian reservation, Fellows said he always believed he had something to prove. He found that outlet in competitive athletics, particularly in football, which he began to play when he was a high school freshman.

"With football, either you like it or you don't because there is too much work and physical contact," he said. "Growing up on the reservation tempered me a little bit. I felt I had something to show."

There was little doubt he would show it at MSU. He'd been a Bobcats fan since he was little because his dad often took him to home games.

His recruiting experience consisted of a conversation he had with MSU football coaches during a high school wrestling tournament his senior year. They encouraged him to take an official visit to the campus. He told them it would be a waste of time; he'd seen the place plenty of times. Besides, he knew exactly where he wanted to go.

Fellows was recruited as an inside linebacker, but he was moved outside during the spring of his freshman season because the Bobcats needed help there. It took two seasons before he became comfortable playing outside, but once he did, it the set the stage for an amazing senior season.

The Bobcats finished 1-10 overall in 1983, so there were few expectations for 1984. All the players wanted, Fellows said, was to earn respect and credibility for the program. They did that, and more.

"Not any of us thought about a championship of any kind," he said. "We were looking to win the first game and the second game. We were into it (the season) before we realized how good we were."

Many of his '84 teammates say a 48-0 win at Weber State in week five of that season convinced the Bobcats just how good they could be, but Fellows said he believes the win that proved to be the springboard for the championship run came a week later, when MSU defeated Nevada at home in four overtimes, 44-41.

Two weeks later, Fellows said, he played what he believes was the best game of his career in a 22-18 win against Boise State.

The Bobcats finished the season 12-2. That record included home playoff wins against Arkansas State and Rhode Island and a 19-6 win against Louisiana Tech in the championship game in Charleston, S.C.

Fellows was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the seventh round of the 1985 NFL Draft, and he made the roster that season. But while covering a kickoff in the second game of the season against the Seattle Seahawks, he was clobbered by a blocker. The force of the collision broke his hip - and ended his career.

"I had two surgeries on it, and I have two Swiss stainless steel pins in it," he said. "It still aches, but I live with it. It's the nature of the beast. You want to play, so you're willing to risk (injury)."

Fellows said he might have made a career out of football - probably as a coach - had his dad not wanted him to come back to Choteau to help on the family cattle ranch. He and his brother, Mike, now run the place.

"Once I couldn't play any more and I wasn't going to coach, I retired up here in kind of a quiet way," he said. "That's the way I am: Either I have to get out of it completely, or I have to go into it.

"But it's hard to get away from it. I reluctantly helped out with a football camp here in Choteau. I still think about football when I'm on a horse."

Fellows and his wife, Pam, a Livingston native, have three children: a boy, Quest, and two younger daughters, Libby and Stephanie.

He still remains close to his alma mater and its football program. He recently served on the search committee that eventually helped to select Rob Ash as the Bobcats' new head coach.

Fellows said the search process was a "love-hate" undertaking for him, because former MSU coach Mike Kramer, who was fired in May, had been his position coach his freshman season.

The farther he gets away from the '84 championship season, Fellows said, the more meaning the accomplishment has for him. So, no matter how the Bobcats' fortunes might change from season to season, it is a moment that will always be special.

"I am a lot more proud of it now than I was then," he said. "When you're 21 years old, you don't appreciate it as much as you do later.

"You've got to have talent, and you have to play together. But you also have to be lucky. There's no way around that. We were the right kind of team, and we put it all together."

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