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Montana legacy No. 37 passed to Sims

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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.”

Griz defensive tackle Jesse Sims waves to the crowd after he was awarded Montana’s No. 37 jersey during halftime at Montana’s spring game in Washington-Grizzly Stadium /by Lacey Young

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.

Montana defensive tackle Jesse Sims (49) in 2017/by Brooks Nuanez

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.

Montana defensive tackle Jesse Sims (49) in 2017/by Brooks Nuanez

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 SchyeDefensive End2017Malta
Caleb KidderDefensive End2015-16Helena
Zack WagenmannDefensive End2014Missoula
Jordan TrippLinebacker2012-13Missoula
Ryan FeatherstonDefensive End2011East Helena
Carson BenderDefensive Tackle2008-10Deer Lodge
Loren UtterbackLinebacker2004-07Fort Benton
Ciche PitcherDefensive End2001-03Anaconda
Andy PetekDefensive End1998-00Helena
Jason CreboLinebacker1994-97Helena
Todd EricsonSafety1990-93Butte
Tim HauckSafety1987-89Big Timber
Kraig PaulsonFullback1983-86Plentywood

Video of Sims interview about receiving the no. 37 jersey:

WATCH: Montana Grizzlies 2018 spring game presser

About Andrew Houghton

Andrew Houghton grew up in Washington, DC. He graduated from the University of Montana journalism school in December 2015 and spent time working on the sports desk at the Daily Tribune News in Cartersville, Georgia, before moving back to Missoula and becoming a part of Skyline Sports in early 2018.

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