With 14 practices in the books and 10 days until the home opener against Valparaiso, the Montana Grizzlies received an inspirational boost in the arm heading into the final scrimmage of fall camp.
Former Grizzly running back and six-year NFL veteran Chase Reynolds returned to Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Wednesday to address the team ahead of Thursday’s closed-door scrimmage.
During his talk, Reynolds relayed “Just what Griz football is really about,” as the team circled around him on one knee following the final whistle of practice.
“Playing in the NFL for six years has been awesome, but, like I told them, in a heartbeat I’d come back here and fight for every one of the guys I played with down on this field,” said Reynolds. In Missoula and the fans here, it just doesn’t get much better than playing here at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.”
For head coach Bob Stitt, having a former Griz All-American and finalist for the Walter Payton Award on hand to impart his knowledge on the 2017 team goes further than just giving them a pep-talk. It’s more of a presentation in living history.
“He is Griz football,” said Stitt. “To hear him speak and talk about how he’d give anything to be back here playing when he’s an NFL player, that hits home with the kids because they think oh, the NFL is everything. Nah, playing for the Griz is everything.”
The inspirational boost seems to have paid off as well.
Sophomore wide receiver Jerry Louie-McGee walked off the practice field beaming with confidence ahead of tomorrow’s scrimmage as Montana’s go-to at the “Z” receiver slot.
“From spring and last fall – the whole time I’ve been here – I think we’re at our best we’ve been,” said Louie-McGee.
“Coming into this fall, it’s a little different. I think the energy and the atmosphere of the team is a whole lot different because you come out here and everybody is ready to go.”
Despite playing only eight games as a freshman, Louie-McGee returns as UM’s leading receiver from 2016 with 651 yards through the air on 73 catches. Those 73 catches were almost twice as many as Montana’s next-leading receiver a year ago.
With nine receivers who caught a pass for UM last year returning, combined with breakout freshman talent like Samori Toure and Samuel Akem, Louie-McGee expects the receiving attack to be a major asset to this year’s squad.
“You look at our receiver depth and you look at our quarterback – Reese is doing amazing, throwing money balls,” said Louie-McGee.
“From my point of view, from my eyes, I think we’re going to be deadly. We’re coming along very nicely.”
Montana will take the field on Thursday behind closed doors at 3:00 p.m. for the final tune up heading into game week preparations for Valparaiso on Sept. 2.
Over the last week of camp, Stitt has seen swagger emerge in this year’s team, and in Thursday’s scrimmage, he wants to see that swagger in action while playing flawless football.
“A penalty-free scrimmage. We want execution, we want it to be clean, and the guys to compete. I want our guys to compete hard tomorrow,” said Stitt.
Following Thursday’s scrimmage, the team will make their way to Caras Park for the annual Great Griz Encounter. The team will be introduced at 6:30 p.m. with speeches from athletic director Kent Haslam, UM President Sheila Stearns, Coach Stitt and team leaders. The Griz will then sign autographs for fans immediately following the pep-rally.
On Friday the Griz will pour over the tape of Thursday’s scrimmage before holding a light, special teams only practice on Friday afternoon. Preparation for Valparaiso then begins in earnest on Saturday with a scout team run-through.
The Griz will then take Sunday off practicing, instead, holding a weight lifting session and team meetings.
Heading into the game week, UM will take Monday off before coming back for a full practice on Tuesday when classes at UM start for the fall semester.
Montana’s first press conference of the season will be held Monday, Aug. 28 at 2:30 p.m. in the Adams Center Sky club.