MISSOULA — Montana senior Jerry Louie-McGee brings an excitement to the football field that has helped him earn the nickname “Mr. Electricity.”
Off the field, the wide receiver and Coeur d’Alene native is a reserved, humble person who is quick to credit others and focus on the success of the team instead of his individual play.
On Monday, Louie-McGee took time to reflect on his record-breaking career as he became Montana’s all-time receptions leader.
“It’s pretty cool coming here as a walk-on, getting my shot and just hoping I’d be able to get some snaps or be able to help the team as best I can,” Louie-McGee said. “Being able to have my name in a place like this that has some pretty awesome (history) — it’s Montana football. Living in Coeur d’Alene you know about this place, the standards and what it holds.
“It’s pretty tough catching all those bubbles the first two years. But, I’m pretty blessed and I’m honored to be able to have my name up there. I’m excited to get going on this next game.”
Louie-McGee is up to 196 career receptions. He broke the record of 192 catches by Raul Pacheco, which had stood since 1998.
Pacheco kept up with Louie-McGee’s chase to the record thanks to a friend in Missoula who sent him updates in recent games. He hasn’t had a chance to talk with Louie-McGee about breaking the record but has had a good impression of him.
“All records are meant to be broken, and from what I have seen and heard, JLM is a great ‘baller’ and an even better human being,” Pacheco told 406mtsports.com on Tuesday. “I couldn’t be happier that an individual like him now owns the record.”
The 5-foot-9, 171-pound Louie-McGee came to Montana when Bob Stitt was the head coach running a pass-heavy offense. He primarily caught bubble screens early on, highlighted by a single-season school-record 21-catch performance against Cal Poly in 2016.
Since Bobby Hauck took over the Griz ahead of the 2018 season, Louie-McGee’s role as a receiver has diversified. He’s no longer confined to just catches at or behind the line of scrimmage.
“There’s lots of things that are fun about coaching Jerry,” Hauck said. “He’s exciting to watch play. What you all don’t see is how hard he works in the weight room and on the practice field.
“The thing that I’ve appreciated probably most about him is how much he’s improved his practice habits and how much he’s improved his game, in terms of the broad sense. It’s not just punt returning and catching the bubble screen. He’s become a way more complete football player. He’s bigger and stronger. I think he’s faster. Just the work he’s put in has made him an even better player.”
Asked if he enjoys the diverse role as a receiver, Louie-McGee downplayed his individual importance in the offense.
“I’m here to do what I can for the team and put us in the best situation to win,” Louie-McGee said. “Wherever the coaches ask me or what they want from me, I’ll do the best I can. It’s pretty cool, but I’m just doing what I can.”
Pacheco was slightly smaller than Louie-McGee, checking in at 5-9, 155 pounds. He’d play for the Griz from 1995-98 and catch passes from Dave Dickenson, Brian Ah Yat and others.
“JLM is a lot more electrifying versus my style of play,” Pacheco said. “Both of us are/were undersized compared to your prototypical wide receiver, but he brings a skill set that is thriving in the NFL today.”
Louie-McGee has at least nine games remaining at Montana. Having caught 196 passes in 33 games, he’s averaged 5.94 receptions per contest and could potentially finish with 249.45 catches if he keeps that pace.
While Pacheco’s record was 192, the NCAA didn’t consider postseason stats official until 2002. Pacheco caught 219 passes at Montana, and Matt Wells (1992-95) officially had 189 but caught 248 passes.
Unlike them, Louie-McGee has not yet had the opportunity to play in a postseason game. He's currently 16th in program history with 1,994 career receiving yards.
“It wouldn’t matter if they included the playoff games I played in; JLM will surpass that number prior to the end of the year,” Pacheco said. “His offseason work, game-week preparation, dedication to his skill set and a humble soul hopefully allows him to keep the record for decades.”
Pacheco’s record stood for 21 years, which has shocked him since he’s been followed by more well-known receivers like Jamaal Jones, Marc Mariani, Mike Ferriter and Jeremy Watkins, among others.
“Records are always meant to be broken, but I was surprised it lasted this long,” Pacheco said. “There have been a lot of amazing receivers to grace that sideline over the years.”
Louie-McGee has also tied the program record for career punt return touchdowns when he ran back his third career score earlier this season against North Alabama. He’s tied with Mariani (2006-09) and Levander Segars (2001-04) for that honor.
Louie-McGee didn’t have a favorite moment that came to mind in his time as a receiver. He wound down his time talking about the individual accomplishment by crediting those who helped him reach this point.
“I think just the guys who I play with and the coaches, it’s a pretty positive atmosphere,” Louie-McGee said. “Try to get better every day, and that’s the goal, is just to get better every day.”