Sporting his fresh No. 37 jersey after Montana’s spring game Saturday, Jesse Sims kept coming back to one word.
“It’s a huge honor,” Sims said. “There are a lot of great guys that have worn this number before me, not just on the field, but great guys off the field, so I’m just very honored to be a part of it.”
His head coach agreed.
“The No. 37 is a big deal in this program,” Bobby Hauck said. “It’s an honor to have that and Jesse’s well aware of that.”
Sims, from Stevensville, will be the 14th Grizzly to earn the right to wear the hallowed jersey, after it was announced at halftime of the spring game that he would take over the tradition from Tucker Schye, a defensive end from Malta.
Plentywood native Kraig Paulson started the tradition of handing down the number to hard-hitting Montana products in 1986, when he passed it on to Tim Hauck of Big Timber.
“I think it just represents what Montana football is about, blue-collared and being tough,” Sims said.
Sims, who will switch from No. 49, is the fourth straight defensive linemen to wear the jersey, following Schye, Helena’s Caleb Kidder (2015-16) and Missoula’s Zack Wagenmann (2014). Missoula’s Jordan Tripp wore the number in 2012 and 2013, which broke up the string of defensive linemen as he followed East Helena defensive end Ryan Featherston (2011) and Deer Lodge defensive tackle Carson Bender (2008-2010). Sims is the eighth defensive linemen to wear No. 37 at Montana.
As a Griz fan growing up in Stevensville, the tradition of the No. 37 jersey as always been in the back of Sims’ mind.
“Growing up in the Bitterroot Valley, it’s definitely something I heard about all the time,” Sims said. “That was the guy to watch … so growing up and watching all those guys and getting to be a part of it is pretty cool.”
A former Class A state basketball tournament MVP and highly recruited tight end who originally committed to Oregon State, Sims broke into the Griz starting lineup as a redshirt freshman in 2016. He went on to make the move from end to defensive tackle, where he has been an anchor for the Griz defensive line. Last season, he had 43 tackles, six tackles for loss and three sacks.
Sims is also regarded as one of Montana’s strongest players and top performers in the weight room. He earned the team’s “offseason MVP” entering his redshirt freshman season. The 6-foot-4, 272-pounder is one of the most physically formidable players on the Montana roster.
He said that Schye, the previous holder of the jersey, hadn’t given him much notice that he would be the new No. 37.
“We actually just met up to get some food [yesterday], and he told me,” Sims said. “It was kind of in the back of my mind, because I knew someone was going to find out sometime soon, so it was in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t expecting it.”
With the honor comes pressure and responsibility. Sims and the rest of the defensive line, which came into the season as the most experienced unit on a young defense, were already expected to be leaders.
Being awarded the No. 37 is another sign of that, but Bobby Hauck thinks Sims can handle it.
“Jesse’s been in this program a long time,” Hauck said. “He’s excited about it, he’s pretty emotional about it, actually. There’s some responsibility and some expectation that goes along with that, and I think he’s ready for that.”
Main photo by Lacey Young, for Skyline Sports. Other photos attributed. All Rights Reserved.
Montana’s No. 37 jersey
|Tucker Schye||Defensive End||2017||Malta|
|Caleb Kidder||Defensive End||2015-16||Helena|
|Zack Wagenmann||Defensive End||2014||Missoula|
|Ryan Featherston||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|
|Tim Hauck||Safety||1987-89||Big Timber|
Video of Sims interview about receiving the no. 37 jersey: