BUTTE — Come hell or high water, the Mellott family is getting to Frisco, Texas.
With winter storms and COVID surges grounding an unprecedented number of flights across the country this week, Shane and Dina Mellott — the father and mother of Montana State University quarterback Tommy Mellott — are wary that their plane to Texas may not take off.
But for the parents of the 20-year-old whose fearless postseason play has been a key facet in MSU's breathtaking run to the FCS title game, it'll take a lot more than a little flight cancellation to keep them from watching their boy take the field for what they — and just about everyone in the state of Montana — hopes will be a storybook ending for the Bobcats.
"We're determined," said Dina as Shane chuckled while the two sat at their kitchen counter on Monday in the house they've lived since Tommy was 2 years old.
"We're afraid of flight cancellations, but we're ready to drive at any given moment," Dina continued. "We will be there."
From the counter — where Shane is donning a t-shirt emblazoned with the words "Tommy Football" beside an image of his son striking a Heisman pose — the Mellott's can look out at a picturesque, snowy mountain landscape from where their house is perched in the Highland Mountains.
That sprawling backyard -- the kind that would be a dream playground for most kids — was the stomping grounds for their three children: Haley, the oldest who recently graduated from Montana Western with an education degree and now works as a teacher; Tommy, the middle child; and Abby, a Butte High student.
"It's really been nice out here," Dina said. "They had motorcycles, four-wheelers, they skied."
Living 30 minutes outside of Butte also taught the young Mellott kids the importance of good time management.
"It's a half an hour earlier for everybody to wake up to get into town," said Dina.
"So early morning practices were a little bit earlier to us," said Shane.
On paper, Tommy's rise to Montana State's starting signal caller checked all the expected boxes as he progressed from a Little Guy football player to Butte High's starting quarterback his sophomore year of high school.
Looking back, if anything tipped off Tommy's parents about just how determined he was to master the game of football, it's that even when he was playing a virtual game of it, he was still as focused and businesslike as he was when he was on an actual field.
"He was playing Madden and his friends would come over and say 'Let's play a game,'" Dine recalled. "He'd say 'no, we gotta practice first.' I didn't even know there was a practice mode, but he found it."
From a kid studying the game of Madden with the same tenacity as a college student preparing for a midterm, Tommy would one day tell his folks that he'd been named Montana State's QB1 just before the playoffs after beginning the seasons as the Bobcats' fourth-string quarterback.
His parents were shocked at first. But as it dawned on them that their boy would indeed be leading the offense, they offered him some simple advice as MSU's first postseason game loomed.
"We just told him 'we believe in you, you're gonna be just fine," Dina said. "Football is football, whether it's at this level, the high school level. Just play your game. That's all you need to do."
Tommy apparently took those words to heart and went on to deliver three polished, turnover-free performances. Now his parents, and all of Bobcat Nation, are hoping he's got one more for Saturday.
MSU arrives in Frisco on Wednesday while the Mellott family is scheduled to land in the Lone Star State on Friday. They're not sure if they'll be able to see their son before the Bobcats and Bison kick off. But if they get that opportunity, they know what they'll tell their son.
"I'm just gonna hug him and kiss him and tell him 'No matter what happens, I love you. I'm so proud of you and your team. Go out and get it. Get that national championship."
"I'm just so proud and so excited to watch him play," said Shane. "Have always loved it. They're gonna do it. They'll go get a championship."