Kroy Biermann might not be the most famous athlete ever to come out of Montana’s Hardin High. But the defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons is the most successful athlete to come out of a high school that is legendary in another sport.
Hardin’s basketball program, particularly legendary Crow Indian Jonathan Takes Enemy, was featured in this 1991 story by Sports Illustrated’s Gary Smith, which may be one of best pieces of sports writing I’ve ever read.
At a high school where basketball was king, Biermann left the sport after his freshman year and focused on football and wrestling.
“Yeah, basketball was huge,’’ Biermann said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “But football and wrestling were pretty big deals, too. There wasn’t much else to do out there. If you didn’t play sports, you were going to have to work on the farm.’’
In high school, Biermann played linebacker, fullback, tailback, wide receiver and returned kickoffs and punts, which might help explain his current role as one of the NFL’s most versatile defensive ends.
Biermann, who beat out Ray Edwards for a starting job early in the season, is used in a variety of ways in coordinator Mike Nolan’s scheme.
At 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, Biermann can play the run (he had 52 tackles in the regular season) and rush the passer (he had four sacks). But Biermann, who moves as well as some linebackers and also plays on special teams, is part of the reason the Falcons have had good success with their blitz packages.
Frequently, the Falcons drop Biermann into coverage and blitz a linebacker or defensive back.
“It’s a fun defense to play in,’’ Biermann said. “Coach Nolan’s playbook is a lot deeper than we’ve even shown. It’s fun, it’s exciting and it’s a fast-paced defense. He does a great job of putting us in position to make big plays.’’