Mitch, Melissa Donahue had different plans for son Dylan
Somewhere in the house, or maybe they are in storage, Melissa Donahue isn’t sure, are a collection of small baseball bats.
They were collected by her husband Mitch during his four-year career in the National Football League.
Donahue would purchase the bats in cities where the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos were playing that weekend.
It was part of a plan for his only son Dylan.
“I didn’t want him to be a football player,” said Mitch, sitting outside his home in Billings on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Mitch Donahue was a football player and a great one. An all-state player for Billings West, he went on to be the two-time Western Athletic Conference player of the year at Wyoming as a defensive end.
Donahue was drafted in the fourth round by the 49ers in 1991 and would play four seasons in the NFL.
On Saturday, Dylan Donahue joined his father, being drafted in the fifth round by the New York Jets. An All-American defensive lineman at West Georgia, he is projected to be an outside linebacker in the NFL.
But it was more than 25 years ago, in those NFL locker rooms, where the elder Donahue formulated a different athletic path for his son.
“I wanted him to play baseball,” he said. “When I was in the league, I saw guys getting hurt left and right. All I saw was pain.
“And I didn’t want Dylan to feel that pain.”
Dylan played both growing up, but his parents worried.
“He would always get hurt,” said Melissa. “But he was determined to play football. Dylan knew what he wanted to be.”
His talent on the football field was hard to ignore.
“He loved hitting people and he was good at it,” Mitch said. “I knew we had a problem on our hands.”
“And Dylan just never listened,” added Dylan’s father breaking into a smile.
And there were other concerns.
Mitch Donahue left some large footprints on the football field. The parents wanted their son to make his own path.
“Melissa and I talked about it,” Mitch acknowledged. “Especially in high school, I felt bad for him. I didn’t want him to feel like he had to live up to what I did.
“I told him, ‘Be yourself. Make your own story.’ My story has been told and it’s boring.
“And he did.”
Dylan Donahue took a longer route than most, his career having a stop or two before finding his football self in Carrollton, Georgia. He redshirted at Montana Western his first season after high school but left Dillon after a year. He worked for his father before starting football again at Palomar College in California.
Like his father before him, Dylan Donahue impressed scouts at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
This was Melissa Donahue’s second time experiencing the NFL draft.
The first was in 1991 during the first year of her and Mitch’s marriage.
There is no comparison she said.
“I was much more nervous for Dylan, for sure,” Melissa said with a laugh. “With Mitch, I wasn’t sure maybe what we were getting into. It was way more stressful this time around.
“You watch your child work so hard to follow his dream and you don’t want him to be disappointed. He knew what he was going to be.”