The Bobcat flag is flying high as usual outside George Wallis’ historic Victorian home in Billings.
But he’s no fair-weather fan — he’s been cheering for the Cats for a long, long time.
“I graduated in the spring of ’42,” he said this week.
Wallis is now 101 years young.
He’s not just an alum — he played varsity football for the Bobcats more than 80 years ago under coach Shube Dyche after graduating from Billings High School.
“It was pretty much a different ballgame. Shube Dyche ran his offense from a short punt formation and the ball was snapped back to the fullback or ball carrier who most of the time ran up the middle,” he said.
Wallis played for the Bobcats from 1938 to 1941, starting at the end of his final two seasons.
While passes were few and far between, Wallis caught one for a touchdown in the first seconds of the opening game of the 1941 season in a 19-0 win over Western State.
“We didn’t throw the ball very much in those days. But we called the pass play (on a fake punt) and I was wide open caught it and scrambled down for a touchdown,” he recalls.
The 1941 team won’t be remembered for its wins on the field, but its losses suffered in World War II.
It was the last team that MSU would field until 1946. Eleven members of that team would lose their lives in the war.
“A lot of them were killed. My good buddy Joe McGeever from Anaconda became a paratrooper and went into France on D-Day. He made it alright on the drop into France but was killed shortly thereafter in the ground fighting in France,” Wallis says.
Fourteen members of Montana State’s pre-war teams died in the war. Wallis was one of the lucky ones who made it back home.
“I had 21 missions over Germany before the war ended,” he said.
He came back home after the war and was married to his college sweetheart for 73 years.
He still lives in the house he grew up in — and still cheers for the Bobcats, who is picking to win on Saturday.
“I think it will be a close game and I think the teams are going to be pretty evenly matched, but the Bobcats have come through so good in their two previous games that I’m inclined to think they can win,” he says.