From walk-on to record holder, Jerry Louie-McGee continues to grind

Jerry Louie-McGee making all-time receptions breaking catch against the University of Oregon on September 14, 2019 (Photo courtesy Montana Athletics)

Coeur d’Alene tribal citizen and University of Montana senior wide receiver etches name among school’s all-time greats

“Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”

Jerry Louie-McGee’s name rings throughout Washington-Grizzly Stadium each time he steps on the field to return a punt. It will continue to ring throughout the football program’s history when it’s all said and done.

In a nationally-televised game two weeks ago against a top-25 ranked team in the Oregon Ducks, Louie-McGee became the University of Montana’s all-time leader in receptions. He also holds the record for most catches in a single game: 21 catches versus California Polytechnic State University in 2016.

For what it’s worth, the NFL record for catches in a game is also 21 and Louie-McGee has averaged 10.1 catches-per-game over the course of his college career.

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Jerry Louie-McGee (Photo courtesy Montana Athletics)

The senior wide receiver said team success is more important than individual records at this point during the season when “we want to win games,” but in a quick moment of reflection he admitted being the record holder is crazy to think about.

“I’m honored to be able to have my name up in the record book at a place like this that has a pretty crazy history and that’s well known,” Louie-McGee, Coeur d’Alene Tribe, said. “I mean it’s pretty cool being able to be a walk-on and you know, not knowing that stuff like this could happen but I just kept working hard and believing positive things will come.”

Louie-McGee has come a long way from growing up on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation in the panhandle of Idaho. He knew from a young age that he wanted to play college football. He loved the sport since he first started playing at the age of six and it’s one of the reasons he and his family moved off the reservation to the city of Coeur d’Alene.

“Playing eight-man football, you’re not going to get the looks that you want, especially from D-I [colleges and universities] and that was our goal,” Louie-McGee said. “So that’s why we decided to move up to Coeur d’Alene for a better education and those sort of opportunities.”

After graduating from Lake City High School in Coeur d’Alene, Louie-McGee walked on at the University of Montana in 2015 where he was redshirted as a freshman by then head coach Bob Stitt.

(A walk-on is a college athlete who tries out for an athletic team without having been recruited or offered a scholarship. To be redshirted means an athlete is withdrawn from college sporting events for a year to develop their skills and extend their period of playing eligibility.)

According to the NCAA demographics database, there were 312 American Indian and Alaska Native student-athletes playing college football in 2015 and 316 in 2018. 

Current head coach Bobby Hauck took over the team in 2018 and the alumnus of Montana said he followed the team while he was away. Hauck’s coaching style meant that everybody had to earn their stripes, including Louie-McGee. Hauck was a little worried about the wide receiver because he was an established player who had to restart from ground zero.

“I’m so proud of him for knuckling down and just being the guy he is,” Hauck said of Louie-McGee. “He’s a real team player and the thing that he’s done best, he’s making lots of plays ‘cause he’s a great player but he’s improved all the teamwork stuff, the leadership stuff.”

The all-time receptions record Louie-McGee broke stood for 21 years and Hauck added that with a lot of the season left to play, and unless he gets injured, Louie-McGee has an opportunity to increase his already record-setting number of catches.

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Jerry Louie-McGee (Photo courtesy Montana Athletics)

Being able to represent his tribe in a positive way at the highest level is something that means a lot to Louie-McGee and upon graduating with his degree in psychology, he hopes to be able to give back to his people.

“That’s ultimately the goal, you know, what I’ve accomplished so far, that’s cool, but giving back and being able to help all the communities around;” Louie-McGee said, “that’s the main goal through it all.”

Additionally, Louie-McGee hopes he is a positive role model for Native youth who aspire to play college athletics. Although he didn’t want to sound cliché, he said if you work hard and have tunnel vision on your dreams, you can reach your goals.

“Block out whatever anybody has to say besides your close family members and just work hard,” Louie-McGee said. “I think as you keep working pushing towards your goal and keeping that in mind and staying out of trouble, I think you’ll be right where you want to be.”

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Kolby KickingWoman is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is Blackfeet/Gros Ventre from the great state of Montana and currently reports and lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - kkickingwoman@indiancountrytoday.com

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