SPOKANE, WASH. — Just before the Big Sky Kickoff this week, Montana announced that Townsend native Jace Lewis would be the next player to carry on the legacy No. 37 jersey for the Grizzlies.
From playing Class B football, to walking on at Montana, to now starring, Lewis has taken the long road to becoming one of the faces of the Montana football program.
"It makes it that much more special to me now," Lewis told MTN Sports at the Kickoff. "It was special before growing up. Growing up a small-town Montana kid, you look up watching the Griz, always seeing the 37 tradition get passed on and on. I’m pretty good friends with (Ryan) Fetherston and Tucker Schye and Jesse (Sims) as well. Growing up watching them and getting mentored by Jesse too, and getting it passed down from him, it means the world to me and it makes it that much more special to wear the number."
Sims approached Lewis and was presented the legacy jersey by him. The duo never got the opportunity to announce the decision together, and Sims tragically passed away back in June.
"There’s no better person to carry this legacy," UM senior offensive lineman Dylan Cook, a Butte native, added. "I’m so happy for Jace and for him to wear 37, no person more deserving and trust me, he’ll honor that number and legacy and honor Jesse."
The No. 37 legacy jersey continues a meteoric rise for Lewis with UM's football program.
— Jace Lewis (@lewis_jace) July 26, 2021
He walked on with the team in 2016, and rose through the ranks of scout and special teams before becoming a starter and all-conference linebacker in 2019 after recording 131 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. This week in Spokane, Lewis again was named a preseason All-Big Sky honoree.
"It's a cool tradition. Obviously I was roommates and brother with the first two guys (Kraig Paulson and Tim Hauck) to pass it on so I've been associated with it for a long time," Montana coach Bobby Hauck said. "It’s a cool tradition. 37 is something that we all hold kinda dear especially so with Jesse Sims being the last guy to wear it."
With the season rapidly approaching, Lewis said the number is the only thing he expects to change about his game this year.
"Getting the jersey is an honor but it doesn’t change who I am or how I play," Lewis said. "I have a different number, I’m going to still play the same, I’m still going to work hard. Nothing changes with the number. I’ll leave my legacy with how I play and the type of teammate I am and just being nice to everybody."