It is an honor for any athlete to be named to an athlete’s hall of fame. “It is very surreal, very humbling and something I never thought would happen or could happen,” said Jeff Larson, a 2006 Cut Bank High School graduate.
Larson, along with six other Montana high school athletes, was recently named to the Montana High School Association 2020 Athlete’s Hall of Fame. Larson will be recognized for his induction into the MHSA Hall of Fame during this weekend’s District 1-B Basketball Tournament.
The presentation will take place before the first boys semifinal game on Friday, Feb. 21, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. start. Larson is the son of Shelley Larson and Greg Larson.
This is an honor and a privilege that Larson is still trying to wrap his head around.
“I’m just very appreciative for the great honor and more thankful to the people that were responsible for making it happen,” he added.
Larson was nominated for the Hall of Fame award by three of the coaches he used to play for: Brian Kavanagh, Scott Laird and Paul Schilling.
“I am not real big into individual awards in team sports and even though I am the one receiving this award, it is my coaches, Coach Kav, Laird, Schills, Gregg and all their assistants, as well as my teammates and friends, who are ultimately responsible for it,” shared Larson. “You can’t throw a touchdown without someone blocking for you or someone catching the pass. You can’t score a bucket without someone setting a screen, throwing you the ball or getting you open. And none of that can happen without a coach that cares for his players and is willing to put in the time and effort to put you in a situation to succeed.”
“I believe Jeff’s high school athletic achievements, along with his academic accomplishments, leadership skills and exceptional character, make him a magnificent candidate for the MHSA Athlete’s Hall of Fame,” wrote Kavanagh in his nomination letter.
“Jeff is the type of young man that you never forget,” pointed out Laird, in his nomination letter. “He is always the first one to volunteer to help with any project and the last one to leave. Jeff exemplifies the greatness of athletics and the many values it teaches us.”
“As one of his coaches and teachers, Jeff exemplifies what a coach-teacher could want in an athlete. His leadership skills along with an amazing will to win helped him along with his fellow teammates to numerous championships,” Schilling added in his letter. “While all of his athletic accomplishments speak loudly, I believe that his love of his school and community is what made him elite. He was and continues to be a role model.”
“I have thought a lot about it since I heard I got inducted and without those people mentioned and the community of Cut Bank, my immediate and extended family, my teachers, etc., it would not have been possible. The support from all of them to constantly push me to be better, to stay humble and focused and to keep grinding when things are tough, is the entire reason this has all happened. They were all important pieces to that puzzle. It may say my name on the award, but all of those people are the real reason this has all happened and I am extremely thankful and indebted for all they did for me.”
While the list of influential people in Larson’s life is long and very distinguished, he is quick to say that “my parents were the most important. They were constantly pushing me to be better,” he said. “At times I thought they didn’t think I was very good, but now, when I look back and reflect, I knew they were just pushing me to be the best person and athlete I could be. They were diligent in not allowing me to be complacent or satisfied and really instilled in me the hunger to push myself for perfection both athletically and professionally. I didn’t always see it their way, like most teenagers do, but without them pushing me, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Larson was born and raised in Cut Bank. He has an older brother and sister and between the three children, there was lots of gym time, court time and field time for his parents.
Without a doubt, he was “molded” by many, including the whole community of Cut Bank. “It was a great place to grow up!” he shared.
Larson played football for his four years in high school as well tennis. He also played basketball and was on the high school golf team. He earned All State awards in football, basketball, tennis and golf and was named to conference teams in football, basketball and tennis. He was also Academic All State football, basketball, tennis and golf each year he played those sports in high school.
He was a state basketball MVP in both his junior and senior year of high school and was awarded the Great Falls Tribune Super State Basketball Team and Athlete of the Week in both his junior and senior year too.
KSEN awarded him the Bozeman Trophy Athlete of the Week and the Trophy Male Athlete of the Year, in his junior and senior year of high school. And in his senior year, he was selected to play on the East Team for the East-West Shrine Football game and the Badlands Bowl Football game.
And if that is not enough sports achievements, he was a member of eight state championship teams in basketball, football and tennis.
If you did not see Larson on a court, field or course, he was probably studying and excelling in his classes as well. He was a member of the National Honor Society and received the A-Plus award in his sophomore through senior years. He was selected as a Boys’ State Delegate and was a co-Valedictorian of his senior class. And to top off his list of accomplishments, Larson obtained his Eagle Scout Award in his senior year.
Talk about a deserving Hall of Famer!
Now, Larson and his wife, Jessa, whom he married in 2015, live in Missoula with their two children, a son Taysom who is three and a daughter, Emersyn, who is just a year old.
Larson said he met his wife Jessa while going to college at the University of Montana in Missoula, where he played football from 2007 to 2010.
“I was constantly injured in college and Jessa worked in the physical therapy department, where I spent a lot of time. I remember meeting her there, but apparently I didn’t make a good impression, because she has no recollection of that happening,” he laughed. “We met again a few years later. I guess I made a better impression the second time.”
Larson is a Wealth Advisor for Granite Peak Wealth Advisors. “I worked here all through college as an intern and was licensed in 2011,” the same year he graduated from University of Montana with a Finance Degree.
His love of sports, even if he is not playing them as much anymore, is still present in his life. He became involved in a program called Griz Kidz in 2014 and is still part of that organization.
“Our focus with the program is on youth who are ‘underprivileged’ and for various circumstances, can’t or wouldn’t be able to attend a Griz football game,” he explained. “Every home game each season, we bring 50 kids to each game and provide them with a ticket, a shirt, a hat, gloves and a winter hat and $10 worth of concession vouchers. We bring a different group of kids through various organizations from all over western Montana.”
He continued, “Of course, a Griz football game on Saturday is a special event, but our main goal is to get these kids on the University campus, experience the atmosphere and have dreams of going to college. We want to leave an impression on them and have these kids leaving the game saying, ‘I want to do that someday.’ It is a great group of guys who started this program and I am thankful to be part of such a great organization. Some of the smiles on these kids’ faces are something none of us will ever forget.”
What participating in sports has done for Larson and for his life, is something he believes cannot be “measured or described. Sports are the reason for everything good that has happened in my life. I got to play for an amazing university and an elite football program, which led me to find my amazing wife and have a job that love. It is the reason I have son and daughter. I am happier than I have ever been, all because of an oval or round leather ball. It may sound dramatic, but it’s the truth.”