By Darby Martin
Many young boys hope of following their athletic dreams beyond middle school, high school, and even college. For three graduates of Baker High School, they have been able to make their dreams of playing college football a reality; but that chapter will soon be closing as they approach the end of their final seasons.
Jeff Fisher, son of Jennifer Fisher, Jordan Walker, son of Rod and Tracey Walker, and Mason Melby, son of Jade and Shelly Melby are all nearing the end of their college football careers, as they enter NAIA playoff games this weekend. Jeff and Jordan are attending Dickinson State University, and Mason is in Billings at Rocky Mountain College. All three started their football careers together, many years ago while playing for Baker.
Although they have gone their separate ways since high school, the three remain close friends even though they now face one another on the gridiron. Football, which brought them together so many years ago, is still a focal point of their relationship, even through the challenges college athletics presents.
Jeff Fisher, Senior Offensive Lineman at Dickinson State has always wanted to play college football, from a very young age. “I really couldn’t see myself not doing sports,” says Jeff. When asked why he chose Dickinson State, Jeff says the choice was easy. With Head Coach Pete Stanton leading the Blue Hawks, Dickinson felt like home. “It’s also close to home so I was able to watch my younger brother play his games,” Jeff recalls.
“I want to thank my family for all the support through high school and college. Coach Schillinger and Coach Breitbach and their coaching staffs helped me with work ethic and knowing what it takes to play this amazing game.”
That work ethic Jeff mentioned was evident throughout his high school and college careers. While playing for Baker, Jeff was named all-conference and-all state for both offense and defense. After his redshirt year at Dickinson State, Jeff has started at Offensive Guard for the last four years. For three of those years, he was named all-conference, and most recently, preseason all-American going into the 2018-2019 season.
“For the young kids in Baker; you can play college football and be successful, you just have to put in the work and sacrifice your time. Be the best not for yourself, but for your program.”
Jordan Walker, Senior Tight End for Dickinson State, pretty much always knew he wanted to play football for Dickinson State. “I wanted to play the game I love for as long as possible… I knew I wanted to play college football probably since the first time I watched my brother play for Dickinson State,” recalls Jordan.
Dickinson State gave Jordan the opportunity to not only play college football, but follow in the footsteps of his brother, and pursue his dreams. “Dickinson State University felt like home to me. I had spent every Saturday afternoon watching the Hawks play… it felt like the right fit for me. I knew the direction the program was going, and I wanted to be part of the success they were working towards.”
In high school, Jordan played quarterback and safety for the Spartans, where he helped lead the Spartans to win many close games and to the state championship game his senior year. Although it’s hard to top the feeling of playing in a state championship game, Jordan says some of his most memorable moments in football came while playing for the Hawks. While at Dickinson State, the Blue Hawks have posted an undefeated home record and have won four consecutive conference championships. The goal of success and improvement Jordan saw in the Blue Hawk Program while choosing a college proved to be true, and by starting for four years, he was able to help make these dreams a reality.
Upon graduation from Dickinson State, Jordan plans to continue his education, with a goal to attend graduate school in pursuit of a Masters degree in healthcare administration, pursuing employment in the field.
“I want to thank my parents and my family for all of their support over the years in everything that I have done, and the community for their continued support through high school and college.”
Mason Melby started playing football while in 7th grade, and fell in love with the game instantly. “I remember playing at this tournament in Bowman… I was playing linebacker and had what I thought at the time was a really big hit. It was an out of bounds hit, and I remember my coach, Mike Griffith, grabbing me and yelling something at me, I don’t remember exactly what, but that’s the moment I really fell in love with the game,” recalls Mason.
Mason’s journey to college football wasn’t an easy one; there were many twists and turns along the way that eventually lead him to Rocky Mountain College in Billings. “I sent my highlight tape out after my junior year to a lot of big schools but didn’t get much of a response except for the Montana and North Dakota schools,” says Mason. “Jordan and I sort of had an agreement; either we were going to play together at the University of Montana, or go our separate ways and play at different schools in the NAIA Conference.” The boys ended up choosing the latter option, with Jordan off to Dickinson State and Mason to Carroll College.
“I quickly learned that Helena was not the right fit for me… so I got in contact with some players I knew at Rocky, Kodee Varner and Taylor Schwartz. They both really liked it there, so I was at Rocky the next semester. I have made so many lifelong friends here and have had a very successful football career that isn’t over quite yet!”
As with Jeff and Jordan, Mason has an endless amount of gratitude to express. “I would just like the whole town of Baker to know how great it was being raised there. The whole community really rallies around football and it has been like that for years and years. It made playing the sport so much fun.” Of course, Mason shares that same gratitude for his former coaches, as well as his parents, “I’d like to thank all of my former coaches for working with all of us and helping everyone become who they are today, and also a big thank you to my parents for teaching me to have a work ethic.”
With so many good years of the sport he loves, Mason struggled to pick just one most memorable moment of his career. The ten-hour trip to Bigfork for the 2013 quarterfinal playoff game during his high school career comes to mind, “I remember the news hyping it up as the battle of the unbeatens… it was a long game of back and forth… but we eventually ended up coming out on top. That sure made the long trip back better!”
Mason is set to graduate from Rocky Mountain College next month and is actively working towards becoming a financial advisor with Edward Jones, a goal he’s had for the last three years.
All three will travel to Iowa for the first round of the NAIA playoffs on Saturday, Nov. 17. Jeff and Jordan will play at Northwestern in Orange City. Mason will travel with the Battling Bears to Sioux City to face the Morningside Mustangs.