MISSOULA — When NFL-bound former Grizzly defensive end Zack Wagenmann texted current Griz Caleb Kidder and asked him to join the recent grad for a workout on Sunday, Kidder wasn’t surprised. It was what happened next that stunned him.
“I met him on the field, and we were warming up, and he just started talking to me about how things are, and asked me if I would wear it for him. I was like, ‘yeah’,” said Kidder.
“It” is Montana’s famed No. 37 legacy jersey.
“I was shocked. I was pretty surprised. I didn’t see it coming because we hang out on a regular basis since he’s been back. It’s pretty awesome.”
Kidder, a 6-foot-5”, 275-pound defensive tackle from Helena has been chosen as the next player to wear jersey No. 37, a number passed down from Montana-born player to Montana-born player whom the previous holder feels will best represent the tradition and honor of the team.
“The 37 jersey represents a lot of things to us Montana kids. It represents certain qualities that we like to think is in all of us Montana players and all the people of Montana,” said Wagenmann from Phoenix, where he is slated to open camp with the Arizona Cardinals this week.
“It’s hard work, dedication, loyalty, selflessness, and when I was thinking about someone to pick, so many people popped into my head, which is why it took so long,” Waggenmann said. “I kept revisiting those qualities. Those were important to me. Every time I thought of them, Caleb just checked every box. I’ve seen what he’s gone through with the injury, coming back from recovery, how he’s handled that, how he’s matured through that process. How he handles himself on and off the field around teammates, in the locker room, of course how he plays. All those things went into it, and I don’t think anyone is going to wear it better. I’m very proud of him and to see where this goes.”
After having a couple of days for the news to sink in that he’d been honored to carry the 37 torch, Kidder says he’s still getting used to the idea as the first day of fall camp nears.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet to be honest. It’s just another number out there,” he said. “When it comes down to it I’m just ready to play, because I didn’t play last year with the injury. I was already excited for the season to start and now I’m just more jacked.”
Kidder will return to the Grizzly defensive front after sitting out most of 2014 with a wrist injury requiring multiple surgeries to attend to. On the mend and coming off a solid spring outing for the Griz, Kidder will be one of defensive coordinator Ty Gregorak’s go-to horses, charged with maintaining Montana’s league-low points allowed in 2014.
Players report for Grizzly fall camp on Sunday, Aug. 2.
— Montana Sports Information