(Editor’s note: MTN Sports began recognizing some of the best football players in Montana history on July 2 with the launch of the #MTTop40. The series started with defensive backs and will run eight weeks, featuring one position each week, concluding with quarterbacks the week of Aug. 20-24 to coincide with Montana’s high school football season opener. This week, we profile the linebackers.)
No. 3 linebacker — Jason Crebo, Helena Capital
Only three linebackers in University of Montana history have worn the legacy No. 37. Jason Crebo was the first, donning the number all four years of his college career and becoming a three-time all-American.
Jason Crebo stat sheet
Helena Capital boasts as much historical football talent as any program in Montana, but Crebo is one of the Bruins’ best ever. While Crebo also played baseball and ran track and field while in high school, football was his calling. He was a first-team all-state selection at both linebacker and tight end, where he led the team in receiving. Crebo was voted the Class AA defensive MVP and Montana’s Gatorade player of the year in 1992 when he helped Capital to a runner-up finish.
After redshirting his freshman year at Montana and appearing in just seven games during the 1994 season, Crebo became a three-year star at outside linebacker for the Grizzlies. He first earned all-conference and all-American honors as a sophomore in 1995 when UM won the FCS national championship. Crebo ranked second on the team with 102 total tackles, including a team-high 20.5 tackles-for-loss and six sacks. He led the Griz in tackles each of the next two seasons, totaling 131 tackles and three fumble recoveries during the 1996 season and 103 tackles in the 1997 season. He earned team MVP honors both years to go along with two more all-American nods, as well as the program’s Golden Helmet award in 1997. Crebo finished his UM career with 353 total tackles, including 70 in the postseason, 44.5 tackles-for-loss and 10 sacks. During his four years in the lineup, the Griz compiled a 46-10 record, advancing to the FCS playoffs all four years and twice reaching the championship game.
Crebo signed as an undrafted free agent with the Buffalo Bills in 1998. After the Bills waived him before the start of the regular season, Crebo retired from football.
… on Crebo:
Former Montana coach Mick Dennehy: “He was the last kid that committed in that group. Most kids, they fax their letter of intent at 8 a.m. and you have them all by 9 a.m., but if you don’t you’re on the phone wondering where they are. Anyway, he held off and I was the last guy in the office, everybody else was down at the bar having a few cocktails and I’m waiting for a fax. It was a good get, though. … His bloodline, his mom was an Estes. Remember Wayne Estes? His mom was built like Wayne. She was probably built better than her kid was. Gosh she was a stud. (Jason Crebo) was such a good kid. You knew he was never going to go get in trouble, he was going to represent our campus community well and our football program and his family. I think that was the big thing.
“David Dickenson is a great head coach, because he understands the game. He would have been as good of a defensive coordinator as he was an offensive coordinator because he was so smart. Crebo wasn’t quite that type of player, but he made the same kind of plays consistently as Dickenson did, because he had an innate ability to look through the blockers, not necessarily take them on and get rid of them, but get through a blocker, sometimes, a lot of times, without even doing anything with them, and making plays. It’s just scary. It was really weird. I’ve never seen anybody like him.
“He was just an incredibly instinctive, we could have played him on offense. He kind of reminds me a lot of this (Troy) Andersen kid at Montana State right now in terms of what he’s able to bring to the table as far as a football player to his team. He was a great kid. I think above and beyond his ability to just play football, he was a pleasure to coach. He was just a wonderful, wonderful kid.”