MISSOULA — Right out of the gates, Nick Ostmo was called upon to play for the Montana Grizzlies as a true freshman in 2019.
To put it mildly, he had a lot to learn.
"I'd say coming in, I didn't really know anything about football," Ostmo said with a grin. "I didn't know what any of the fronts were, like defensive fronts. I remember freshman year, we used to have to go up to the board and coach (Justin) Green would make me go up there and draw out plays and stuff and I was so embarrassed that I didn't know anything."
But Ostmo is a quick learner, and the Portland native became a staple in the running back room immediately.
He admits he wasn't sure what he was getting himself into, but with the help of his coaches and teammates, the maturation process became more comfortable.
"I had to lean on a lot of the other guys and really talk to them and kind of learn from them, and knowing what I'm supposed to do and be able to follow different game plans each week because things change, like our alignment changes, play changes, all that, so I just think talking with the guys and then helping me out and that stuff just really helped push me along," Ostmo said.
Ostmo's career hasn't been without ups and downs despite its fast start.
In 2021 during fall camp, Ostmo broke his ankle, effectively ending that season before it began.
But last year, he got back on the field and quickly rediscovered his footing with 743 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. Ostmo said having his teammates there for him each day during his injury helped him get through a trying and dark time.
"Last year, I really found my love for football again because not seeing the field for so long, you kind of are like, 'Do I still have it?'" Ostmo said. "'Am I still going to be good when I get back out there?' And I think that last year was a good lift up for me to say, 'Hey, I'm a good player, I can go out and do the things that I know I can do.'"
This year, the senior has again been a featured back for UM, but the injuries have taken their toll over the years.
Though he still has one year of eligibility left, Ostmo made the difficult decision to move on with life after this season concludes, an outcome he didn't arrive to lightly.
"I just wanted to give it one more year where I'm just fully going to give it my all, and I think that I owe it to my future self and my family and stuff to be able to have a good functioning body to be able to play with my kids, lift up my kids and stuff," Ostmo said. "And I think that some of the back and shoulder injuries I've had that kind of put me down, I don't want them catching up to me, so I think that played a big role in it, and also we have really good young running backs and I think that it's just a good time for them to be able to fill in and take the role.
"I'd been talking with my parents about it a little bit after the year ended last year, and went to talk to coach Green about it, and he basically just said, 'Let me know, take all of Christmas break and just let me know when you get back.' And I spent that month just home, just trying to figure it out, talking with my parents and siblings and just those people close around me, and I just thought that it was a good choice to just give it one more year."
As it stands, Ostmo has rushed for 1,445 yards in his career at Montana as well as 16 touchdowns. He's also caught 32 passes for 363 yards and three more scores. His 221 yards against Cal Poly last year rank sixth in school history for rushing yards in a game, and his 80-yard touchdown against Eastern Washington last season is tied for the third-longest rushing TD in school history
Ostmo was also a decorated baseball player coming out of high school and was approached by an MLB scout about possibly entering the draft. But he found his love on the gridiron, and Missoula reminded him of southern Oregon where his parents grew up, and in turn he found a home where he was able to thrive at the college level.
"I'd say that the thing that will stand out the most is just the people I've met and all of the fans that come out to our games, all 26,000, 27,000 fans that are here," Ostmo said. "And I don't think I'd trade any of those moments, any of those friendships for the world, so I think that coming here was the right decision, and I think that those things will stick with me for the rest of my life."
Ostmo has also completed his undergraduate degree already, as he graduated from UM in the spring with a degree in business management and entrepreneurship.
While there's been physical challenges, Ostmo has pushed through the mental struggles as well, and it's all turned him into the man he is today as he winds down a decorated career at Montana, one he's thankful for.
"I'd say I'm a whole different person than I was four and a half years ago," he said. "I was just a young kid coming in here, and I feel like I'm more of a matured person coming out and this program has really built that for me, and also the injuries, people have their mental battles with injuries and I don't think I'd be where I am without them, so I wouldn't really change anything that's happened to me throughout this time, and I think that everything has pushed me along the way to being the player that I am.
"It seems like it's been a long road but at the same time it's kind of flown by, so this season has been good so far and just trying to take every moment, every game, every play like it's my last and just going out there and giving it my all."