(Editor's note: University of Montana media release)
MISSOULA -- Montana senior linebacker Jace Lewis of Townsend has been named the next Grizzly to carry on the No. 37 legacy jersey tradition, Lewis announced Friday.
The two-time All-Big Sky honoree was presented the jersey by former UM standout Jesse Sims, but the two were not able to officially announce the transition before Sims passed away in an ATV accident in May.
"The 37 tradition is special to any Montana kid growing up, but now with everything that happened, and Jesse wanting me to wear the jersey, it makes it that much more special," Lewis said in a media release. "Knowing he wanted me to wear it, that he thought I had what it takes to wear it and that I had some of the same values he had, is special. I looked up to him from the time I got here at UM. He took me under his wing, kept me going, pushed me in the weight room and on the field. Off the field, he was just a great dude to be around. He came from a great family, and it showed with everything he did."
The Grizzly football jersey No. 37 tradition began in 1983 when Plentywood native Kraig Paulson passed the jersey to a younger player who hailed from the state of Montana, Tim Hauck. Paulson was known for his hard-nosed play and workman mentality. The number 37, a player-to-player tradition, has since come to represent the spirit of Montana: hard work, dedication to the team, and tough play on the gridiron.
"When I think about this tradition, the words that come to mind are blue-collar, hard-working, selfless leadership. As a kid, I grew up watching guys like Ryan Fetherston, Jordan Tripp, Zack Wagenmann, Caleb Kidder, and Tucker Schye who all had that mentality," Lewis added. "I think I get that from my family and growing up on the family ranch. My parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, it all comes from them teaching me what it means to have those values and to be hard-working. And being able to play with and be around Jesse for so long as someone I looked up to drove me to work hard and be the best I could be."
Lewis enters the 2021 season as one of the top-40 all-time tacklers in Montana history with 219 stops to his name. As a junior in 2019, he was one of the top five tacklers in the Big Sky and a top-25 tackler in FCS football with 131 stops that year. Following that breakout year, he earned first-team all-conference honors and was named the Big Sky Preseason Defensive Player of the Year heading into the 2020/21 season.
Lewis and offensive tackle Dylan Cook will be Montana's student-athlete representatives at the Big Sky Kickoff media days in Spokane, Washington, July 24-26.
The No. 37 Tradition – Grizzly Legacy
· Jace Lewis, Linebacker, 2021, Townsend
· Jesse Sims, Defensive End, 2018-19, Stevensville
· Tucker Schye, Defensive End, 2017, Malta
· Caleb Kidder, Defensive End, 2015-16, Helena
· Zack Wagenmann, Defensive End, 2014, Missoula
· Jordan Tripp, Linebacker, 2012-13, Missoula
· Ryan Fetherston, Defensive End, 2011, East Helena
· Carson Bender, Defensive Tackle, 2008-10, Deer Lodge
· Loren Utterback, Linebacker, 2004-07, Fort Benton
· Ciche Pitcher, Defensive End, 2001-03, Anaconda
· Andy Petek, Defensive End, 1998-00, Helena
· Jason Crebo, Linebacker, 1994-97, Helena
· Todd Ericson, Safety, 1990-93, Butte
· Tim Hauck, Safety, 1987-89, Big Timber
· Kraig Paulson, Fullback, 1983-86, Plentywood