Class of 2016
Pete Lazetich had a record setting high school career at Billings Senior where he was named all state in football, basketball and in track where his school records brought him the state champion in both the discus and shot put.
Lazetich was an honorable mention All-American as a defensive tackle at Stanford University where he coined the term “Thunderchickens” to describe his cohorts on the defensive front.
He told teammates the moniker was in reference to a Montana motorcycle gang and that teammate Dave Tipton ran like a chicken.
As a junior the Stanford defense played a key role in leading the Indians to the top of the Pac-8 Conference and into the coveted Rose Bowl for the first time in 19 years.
And with quarterback Jim Plunkett’s MVP performance and the “Thunderchickens” stingy late game heroics, Stanford defeated Ohio State 27-17 with Tipton contributing a dozen tackles and Pete adding 11.
Named to Stanford’s All-Century team, Lazetich also is in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. As a matter of fact, Pete was part of the effort to recruit Helena High standout Pat Donovan to Stanford who also has been named to Stanford’s All Century team. Lazetich was selected in the second round (36th pick) of the 1972 draft by San Diego (1972-74) before being traded to Philadelphia where he completed his career in 1977.
Lazetich remembers 2 plays with significance in 1972 while playing for the Chargers. On a particular pass play, a photographer captured one of Pete's favorite moments. Miami Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese dropped back to pass, Lazetich jumped high in the air from his defensive tackle spot, stretched his arms high to block the pass. All the while, perennial all pro guard Larry Little had a piece of his middle while all pro center Jim Langer was staging a chop block at Pete's lower body. Behind all this was all pro running back Larry Csonka running a route to catch the pass. Pete says, "look at all that, 3 All Pro Hall of Fames against one ol' thunderchicken from Montana."
During the same game, two players with Montana ties had a hand in a potentially season changing play. During another pass attempt, Bob Griese dropped to pass again; but, a furious rush from the Chargers defensive front, including Lazetich and former Montana State defensive player Ron East, ended with Griese suffering a broken leg. Lazetich said "at the time we were well ahead, we hated to see Griese get hurt; but, at the time we thought we had the game won. Then that old S.O.B., Earl Morrell came off the bench, rallied the Dolphins, and they ran the table the rest of the year, 16 and 0 after winning the Super Bowl". Morrell was 40 years old at the time.
Lazetich’s time in Philadelphia was during a rebuilding faze, linebacker Bill Bergey was the only pro bowl starter from the Eagles during that time. One highlight for Pete was appearing in the movie “Invincible”. Vince Papale was a 30-year-old high school teacher when he joined the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles in 1976. Vince Papale's story was remarkable: he had no NFL experience and had run track, not played football, at St. Joseph's University. In 1974 he caught on with the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League, but the team folded the next year. In 1976 the Eagles' rookie coach, Dick Vermiel, held open tryouts for players. Papale tried out for Vermiel, was invited to training camp and, against all odds, made the team. Vince Papale spent three seasons with the Eagles (1976-78) as a special teams player and wide receiver. In the movie, Lazetich was in a locker room scene with coach Vermiel.
Pete’s sister, Karen Moses of Billings, says Pete still tells stories with the best of them. He loved playing and he still loves the memories. She says, "Pete still gets calls regularly from Stanford to emcee fundraisers when possible."
Pete and his family have made Reno and Carson City their home for over 3 decades where Pete owns several businesses including a ranch outside Reno.