(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. We’ve wrapped up the defense, also profiling the defensive linemen and linebackers, and started the offense with the offensive linemen, tight ends and wide receivers. This week, we focus on the running backs.)
No. 1 running back — Chase Reynolds, Drummond
Despite owning an 8-Man football background, Chase Reynolds would become one of the all-time greats at the University of Montana, finishing as the program’s leader in career touchdowns, before enjoying a professional career in the NFL.
Chase Reynolds stat sheet
Reynolds put together the most impressive 8-Man football career in Montana history, winning 35 consecutive games and three state championships at Drummond. The Trojans won titles in 2003, 2004 and 2005. A four-time all-state selection, Reynolds totaled 5,261 rushing yards, a state record according to the Montana High School Association, and 114 touchdowns. He also lettered four times in basketball and track and field, earning all-conference honors on the hardwood.
Reynolds famously continued his career at the University of Montana, where he would become one of the best running backs in program history despite being somewhat undersized. He redshirted the 2006 season and then spent the 2007 year at wide receiver while Lex Hilliard carried the load in the backfield. Reynolds was named the Grizzlies’ starting running back in 2008 and had a monster year, carrying the ball 281 times for 1,583 yards and a single-season record 22 touchdowns as the Grizzlies advanced to the FCS national championship game. He was just as good in 2009, totaling 1,502 yards and another 22 touchdowns as the Griz again played for the national title. Reynolds’ 2008 and 2009 seasons are two of the best in UM history, and he capped his career with a 982-yard, eight-touchdown season in 2010. All told, Reynolds finished with 4,067 career rushing yards – just three yards behind Yohance Humphrey for most all-time – and 52 touchdowns, the program’s career record.
Reynolds signed with the Seattle Seahawks as undrafted free agent in 2011. After the Seahawks waived Reynolds that August, he signed with the St. Louis Rams. He spent five seasons with the Rams, starring as a special teams ace, before retiring after the 2016 season.
… on Reynolds
Chase Reynolds: “The first initial time (I knew I could play college football) was when both the Bobcats and the Griz called. I was like, ‘What does this look like?’ I didn’t even know I could play college level. We had talked about it and it had been a memory thinking about it, but I thought maybe an NAIA school. Not that I didn’t think I was good enough (to play at a bigger school), but I thought what was best for me was a small school. That’s what I was told and what I had heard and what I thought was best. When (the Cats and Griz) came calling, I think Bobby (Hauck) and Tim (Hauck) and those guys, they came to a football game in Drummond. I was like, ‘Wow, I have an opportunity to play in front of these guys.’ I think I had a decent game, by no means my best game, but I kind of left it at that. I was like, ‘I don’t know, I didn’t have a great game, I probably blew my shot.’ My dad, he mentioned to me, ‘Don’t regret making decisions. Don’t go play at Carroll, Tech or somewhere in the NAIA, have a good career there, but look back and go, “Man I bet I could have played at one of these bigger colleges.”’ That moment for me was kind of like, go big or go home, it really was. It was, come (to Missoula), work my hardest, do what I do and if I don’t make it, at least I can fall back and know that I tried it. That was the position I took, it turned out pretty good and I went from there.
“Just pinballing, man. I was a little guy. I think what I used to my advantage, I think people probably underestimated me a little bit. I was pretty small for a college running back. But the thing I always told myself was, ‘Nobody would out-tough me.’ I guess I approached running back as, ‘You have to tackle me and at the end of this fourth quarter, you’re going to want to stop and I’m going to keep going.’ That was my whole approach at football, ‘I’m going to wear you out before I wear out.’ That’s kind of how I ran my high school career, college career, professional career. ‘I’m not stronger than a lot of people, but I think I’m tougher than a lot of people.’ I try to teach my son, ‘There’s a difference between strong and tough, you can be tough.’ That was my approach to football, just wear the other guy out.
“It’s cool (to be near the top of multiple UM records). The best part is that I can reach out to kids that are at a small town, at a small high school and let them know that it’s possible. It’s a lot of hard work, but the thing I try to use to my advantage is letting them know that their future is in their own hands. I look at those guys, I think Lex (Hilliard) and (Yohance) Humphrey and all those guys, I think they’re probably better running backs. I had good guys that blocked for me, good teammates, great coaches, by no means do I think those records are mine. I think they’re team records, I just happen to have my name on there. But the teammates and guys that were in the locker room, down grinding on the field, it speaks volumes of those guys, too.”
Former Montana Grizzly assistant football coach Mick Delaney: “I was really, really fortunate to come from Colorado State and being able to coach Chase right off the bat in 2008, 09 and 10. I think he had played wide receiver the previous fall of his freshman year. When Bobby hired me, they were talking about, ‘What are we going to do with Chase and so forth?’ I think they had given him a couple reps in the fall on the scout team at running back and so forth. They said, ‘Well, let’s move him to running back.’ Gosh, I was just so excited about that, because I had watched tape on him as a high school young man when I was coaching at Colorado State, and he just jumped out even though he was from such a small school. We did not recruit him at Colorado State, but he was a guy that we probably should’ve at that time. Very fortunate when I was at CSU, I think I had nine running backs that ended up playing in the NFL, and then getting Chase and watching him, he was as good as any of the kids we had. Not quite as big as a few of them, like Cecil Sapp and E.J. Watson and a few guys like that that were 220 pounders, but he was every bit as talented because he was a tough guy. The only thing I knew about running backs was give them the ball and make them run downhill, and, man, Chase was all about that. Chase only weighed 190 pounds. He looked a lot bigger than that. He was very, very similar to a young man by the name of Kevin McDougle that I had at Colorado State and went on to play with the Indianapolis Colts: 5-10-ish, 5-11, 190 pounds and played like they were 215, 220. Chase, again, he was a tough guy.
“Chase talked about (the chip on his shoulder) a few different times. He really felt as he entered into college, he said, ‘I didn’t expect to go to college and play football, really.’ Chase got married while he was still in high school, which was a real challenge to him being able to continue his athletic career, really. He told me a few times, he said, ‘I thought I might be lucky if I got to go to Carroll or Tech or Western.’ He said, ‘When I got the opportunity to come to Montana, I wanted to prove that I could play with anybody,’ as far as the competition that he was going to face at the University of Montana. He was just such an assuming young man. He showed up every day, he wasn’t anything real special to look at. If you saw him in his street clothes, you wouldn’t know that that was Chase Reynolds that just rushed for 220 or 185 yards or was the second-leading rusher in the history of the University of Montana, would’ve been the leading rusher if I had any sense at all and took him out of a game toward the end of the season. I think Yohance ended up having seven more yards or six more yards or something than Chase did. To this day, I apologize to him for that, and all’s Chase did is look at you and say, ‘I’m not about records. I’m about being a team guy.’”