FRISCO, Texas — One of the most special aspects of Montana's run to the FCS title game has been connecting the past and present within the Grizzly program.
But for one family in particular, it's been a run with many similarities, as Brian Ah Yat saw the Grizzlies go to the championship back in the 1990s, and now he's watching his son, Keali'i Ah Yat, return with the Grizzlies this season.
Ah Yat electrified Griz fans in the '90s as one of the greatest quarterbacks in UM history.
He was on the team when the Griz won it all in 1995 and led them back to it in 1996, but now as a fan, Ah Yat is soaking in seeing his alma mater back in championship form.
"It's been a real amazing, exciting season," Ah Yat said from his home in Hawaii. "Our family has just been, you know, every Saturday, just been excited, waking up, ready for the Griz games. It's such a great year they've had up to this point. Having my son out there, it's just a blessing for our family."
That blessing has been twofold for the Ah Yat family, and for Griz fans.
Back when UM defeated Northern Colorado, the true freshman QB saw his first career reps — and tossed his first score to boot — as Brian and his wife watched back home in Hawaii.
"When he got in, I was looking at my phone or something and she screamed, she scared the heck out of me when he got in the game," Ah Yat said with a laugh. "So it was exciting. I mean, it brought some of those butterflies back like when I was playing.
"Me and my wife jumping up and down, high-fiving each other, and you know, they brought some good memories back. Some good feelings."
Brian coached Keali'i in high school and has watched his son develop a love for the game from a young age.
Those first moments as a true freshman in Washington-Grizzly Stadium were an opportunity Keali'i handled in stride.
"I just thought that it was it was pretty cool to see him look comfortable," Brian said. "He looked comfortable out there. And I know if I was a freshman, put in the game like that I'd be a nervous wreck. So it's nice to see that.
"The neat thing for him too, is that a lot of stuff that I've used in the high school level and the youth level of coaching I got from from coach (Brent) Pease. And you know, Keali'i is prepared for some of those those types of things that coach has taught me so very neat experience."
Brian gives Keali'i advice where he can, and knew how to prep him before he made the journey to the Treasure State from The Aloha State.
"It's been a real blessing for him to be at the University of Montana and is just very special for us," Ah Yat said. I got to pinch myself sometimes just to, you know, to believe that it's actually happening, but I'm so happy for him. He's put in a lot of work since he was young. And, you know, he's been through some ups and downs, in his high school ball. And it's just so nice to be part of a great program, a great tradition, a university such as Montana.
"We're just so happy and proud of these guys. And they're a really exciting team to watch. And I think you can tell how close this team is. I think that's a big reason for their success. You know, coach (Bobby) Hauck and his entire staff have done a great job. It's great football, we love watching it every Saturday. And we've just got to get that one more."
The family has seen Keali'i play three times this season, when the Griz hosted Idaho State on homecoming, their road trip at Portland State, and in the FCS semifinals against North Dakota State.
Montana's run has brought many memories back to Ah Yat about his historic playing career, and going forward, as his son continues to develop as the quarterback of the future for the Griz, he's expecting big things, and looking forward to more special moments.
"I think being a student of the game, knowing defenses, being able to you know anticipate throws," Ah Yat said. "He's got a long way to go but I think he sees the field pretty well for a young QB. He's just got to continue to do that and just go out there and let it rip and be confident and I think he is confident."