Montana quarterback Brian Ah Yat won’t miss home in Honolulu as much this season as he tries to lead the Grizzlies to another I-AA national championship game. And he certainly won’t miss the home cooking.
His parents are moving to Missoula to watch him play football in a climate better suited for a bowl of hot soup than an icy pina colada.
“He didn’t mind at all that we would be up there,” said his mom, Aileen, who along with her husband is taking a sabbatical from the Honolulu School District.
“He said he’d be over for dinner every night. Rice is kind of like our staple,” she said. “We’re bringing some stuff up with us.”
Brian will also have his younger brother at school. Akoni Ah Yat is a walk-on, trying out for a spot as a receiver. The Grizzlies already have a standout Hawaiian receiver, Raul Pacheco, a teammate of Brian’s at Iolani High School in Honolulu.
“It’s nice to have people you’ve played in front of before here to watch,” Pacheco said. “A couple of home-cooked meals isn’t going to hurt, either.”
In between cooking and football games, Aileen will be completing work on her sabbatical, which involves studying the “School-to-Work” program in Washington and Oregon so she can help implement it in the Honolulu School District.
Her husband, Tony, works at an alternative school in Honolulu. He’ll be taking curriculum-related courses at the University of Montana.
The Ah Yats had to apply for the sabbaticals in a very competitive environment.
“We’re pretty close to our kids. I need to say that. It’s not something that we had to really think about really hard,” Tony said about the move.
Another brother, 23-year-old Paul, is a pitcher for the minor-league Lynchburg Hillcats in Lynchburg, Va. His season runs through September.
“On his way home he will stop over (in Missoula) and he’ll be there probably for a week or two,” Tony said. “Hopefully he can watch a game or so.”
Moving up north is a big adjustment for a family used to heavenly Hawaiian weather. Late in the football season it can by frigid in Missoula.
“Every year it got a little easier,” said Brian, a junior. “You just tell yourself you can play in that weather.”
Said his mom: “We’ll need a little bit more than sweaters up there.”
Last December, the Ah Yats flew to West Virginia for Montana’s Division I-AA national title game against Marshall. The Grizzlies lost 49-29.
“I’d like to see one that they win,” Tony said.
He probably won’t have to wait long.
Montana, which has won at least 10 games in each of the past four seasons, opens at home on Sept. 13 against Stephen F. Austin, a perennial I-AA power.
The Ah Yats also plan on catching the road games. In fact, an education conference they’ll be attending in Oregon is the week before the Grizzlies play Portland State on Nov. 8.
And if the Grizzlies advance to the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs for the fifth consecutive year, there will be key contests in December.
As a sophomore last season, Brian completed 265 of 432 passes for 3,615 yards and 42 touchdowns as the Grizzlies went 11-0 during the regular season. During the I-AA playoffs, he completed 116 of 177 passes for 1,397 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Pacheco, who is on track to break all of Montana’s receiving records, caught 40 passes for 680 yards and five touchdowns last year.