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Montana Grizzlies to induct Vince Huntsberger into Hall of Fame

Posted: 7:03 PM, Jun 24, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-26 20:09:00-04

Former Montana all-American Vince Huntsberger is joining the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame. (Photo courtesy Montana Athletics)

(Editor’s note: University of Montana media release)

MISSOULA – A pair of former University of Montana icons, both physicians, have been selected as the recipients for two of UM’s major athletics awards.

Former football star Vince Huntsberger, now a Doctor of Emergency Medicine, has been selected to the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame, while long-time UM retired physician Dr. Robert Curry will receive the Grizzly Lifetime Honors Award, announced UM’s Director of Athletics, Kent Haslam.

A native of Libby, Huntsberger played for the Grizzlies from 1998-2001 and achieved enormous success both on the field and in the classroom as the 2001 National Championship MVP and a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy.

As a senior in high school, he had to make a difficult decision on whether to play at Montana or Montana State. He said there were a few different reasons that he chose the Grizzlies.

“It was proximity – close to home, and they had just won the national championship two years earlier (1995) and played for the championship the next year,” he said. “Blaine McElmurry (an All-American safety for the Griz in 1994-95-96) was from Troy, and we knew his family and talked to them about it. It was a hard decision. Greg Salo was the defensive coordinator in Bozeman, and he was the high school coach at Libby High School prior to that. So, that was a tough decision, but in the end, Missoula was just the best fit for me.”

He was a durable player and never missed a game in his career, starting in 55 in a row. He is Montana’s all-time leading tackler with school-record 469 career stops (includes playoff games), 265 of which were solos.

“Timing was a big thing for me when I got to fall camp,” Huntsberger said. “I had to beat out a couple of younger players and got a chance to play as a true freshman and prove myself. Players like (Sean) Goicochea; (Josh) Remington and (Jake) Dennehy all of whom had been starters had all recently graduated, and McElmurry was a senior starter, so there was one of the starting safety jobs available. They were all great safeties, and all from Montana and that string started with Tim Hauck (who played from 1987-89).”

He was named to numerous All-American teams in 1999, 2002, and 2001, and was a team captain and All-Big Sky Conference selection those three seasons as well. He was tabbed the league’s defensive MVP in 1999 and 2001. In his four years as a starter, the Griz went 45-10 and won four league titles and garnered the 2001 Division I-AA National Championship.

“Winning the national champion my senior year – to go out like that was the highlight,” Huntsberger said when asked about his fondest memory. “You know football is a team sport, and you win a national championship as a team. It doesn’t get any better.”

“The next highlight would probably be a playoff game our junior year,” he continued. “It was like a blizzard that day, and then we end up winning at the end.” (The Griz beat Appalachian State 19-16 in overtime in a 2000 semifinal home game on a 15-yard pass from Drew Miller to Jimmy Farris. UM then advanced to its third title game in six seasons, losing 27-25 to Georgia Southern on a rainy day in Chattanooga, Tenn.).

“Another good memory was my Eastern Washington game (a 25-7 Griz home win in 1999) as a sophomore. I think that I had three interceptions and I didn’t have that many in my career,” he said. “For me to have three interceptions in one game was big. I think that I only had seven or eight (he had eight) in my career.”

Huntsberger earned several major team awards: Steve Carlson (MVP, 2001), Golden Helmet (hardest hitter, 2000-2001; Terry Dillon (best back or receiver, 1999). Nationally, he was the runner-up for the 2001 Buck Buchanan Award (I-AA National Defensive Player of the Year).

Huntsberger maintained a 3.87 GPA majoring in biology/pre-med and was a three-time Division 1 Academic All-American. He was one of 16 national finalists for the 2001 Division 1 William V. Campbell Trophy (National Scholar-Athlete of the Year) and received an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.

Huntsberger and his wife Amelia have three children, Luke (7), Alina (4), and Levi (2). They live in Sandpoint, Idaho, and he is a physician at Lake Pend Oreille Medicine PLLC.

Curry is a graduate of Indiana University’s Medical School, and he served a one-year internship at Anker Hospital in St. Paul, Minn. He was associated with the medical firm of Drs. Turner, Johnson, and Curry from 1960 until he came to UM. He served one year as assistant surgeon at the Western Montana Clinic and was chief of staff at Missoula’s Community Hospital.

Named the director of UM’s Student Health Service in 1965, Dr. Curry and retired in 1990. However, Dr. Curry stayed involved in Griz athletics and the athletic training program until 2005.

He said he decided to move to Missoula because “we were looking for a place to practice medicine in the West because I liked to hunt and fish, and the outdoors – those were the biggest attractions.”

Curry was an integral part of UM’s Student Health Service for almost four decades. He cared for, monitored, and advised Grizzly athletes on health and human performance issues. He also mentored and trained the Grizzly Athletic training staff. He was the Grizzlies’ team physician for several years.

He said his favorite memories were, “my association with people like Nase Rhinehart, Dennis Murphy, and Steve Hackney. And you know the great people in the athletic department. I mean what a run we had, with (head football coach from 1986-95) Don Read. I’ll tell you I think I went through more head football coaches than I did presidents of the university.

“Anyway, there are so many wonderful memories,” Curry added, “but my fondest concern right now is for the students and for the health service center itself. I want them so to succeed and grow, but unfortunately, the entire university is going through a very difficult time.”

An avid and skilled handball player, Curry played the sport until the age of 82. “I won a few state titles and had a lot of fun,” Curry modestly said. “I made wonderful friendships all over the state and had lots of fun.”

His UM legacy was forever cemented in 1999 when UM President Dr. George Dennison named his former workplace the Curry Health Center. Curry and his wife of 61 years, Dee, have five children, 18 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

Last year former (1992-95) football player Matt Wells was inducted into the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame Award, while Steve Hackney, UM’s head equipment manager from 1981-2010, received the inaugural Grizzly Lifetime Honors Award.

A banquet to induct the pair will be held on Friday, Nov. 13 at the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame sponsor Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown. The day after the banquet they will be introduced at Washington-Grizzly Stadium when Montana hosts Weber State in its final regular-season home game.

MORE ON HUNTSBERGER

Football Accolades/Achievements/Records

  • 2001 National Champion
  • 2001 Championship Game MVP
  • Two-time Big Sky Conference Defensive MVP (2001 & 1999)
  • 2001 Buck Buchanan Award runner-up (National Defensive Player of the Year)
  • Won 4 Big Sky Conference championships
  • Two-time First-team All-Big Sky (1999 &200)
  • Second-team All-Big Sky (2000)
  • Montana’s all-time leader in career tackles (469* Including Playoffs – 393 Regular Season)
  • Received a vote for the Heisman from Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star in 2001 because, “He is what I want to believe the Heisman is about . . . But he is, I think, the most outstanding player in college football this year.”
  • Eight All-American selections (2000 & 2001: Associated Press, Don Hanson’s Football Gazette, The Sports Network, Walter Camp Foundation)
  • Four-time varsity letterman for the Griz
  • Started 55-straight games for the Griz
  • Win-loss record of 45-10
  • Led team in tackles three seasons in a row
  • Team best of 113 tackles in 2001 (Regular Season)
  • Team captain 3 years in a row
  • Steve Carlson Team MVP 2001
  • Two-time UM Golden Helmet Award winner 2000 & 2001
  • UM’s Terry Dillon Award winner 1999 (best back or receiver)
  • UM’s Special Teams Player of the Year as a freshman (1998)
  • Co-recipient of UM’s Freshman of the year award (1998)
  • Played in 2001 Paradise Bowl All-Star Game
  • Three-time Big Sky Player of the Week (x2 in 1999 & 2001)
  • Career highs: 20 tackles at Idaho in 2000, 16 of which were solo – 3 interceptions vs. EWU in 1999 – 3 pass deflections at Idaho in 2000

*Including playoffs, Huntsberger totaled 469 tackles in 55 games (8.52/game). If the NCAA and Big Sky Conference recognized tackles and playoff totals as official statistics at the time:

  • Huntsberger would be the third all-time leading tackler in Big Sky history.
  • His single-season high of 145 tackles would have been the school record until 2018 when Dante Olson had 151 and would be the 8th-best single season in Big Sky history

Academic Accolades/Achievements/Records

  • 2001 National Football Foundation William V. Campbell Trophy Finalist (National Scholar-Athlete – One of 16 finalists)
  • Three-time Academic All-American (1999, 2000, 2001) – Only three-time member at the time
  • Inaugural I-AA Athletic Directors Association (D1-AA ADA) Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipient (2002)
  • D1-AA ADA Academic All-Star Team (2001)
  • Big Sky Scholar-Athlete (2002)
  • Four-time Academic All-Big Sky selection
  • Maintained a 3.87 GPA in biology/pre-med
  • Awarded UM’s Bruce E Blattner Memorial Scholarship
  • Received NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship