Humphrey, Imer join Montana immortals

MISSOULA — Two of the University of Montana’s record-setting rushers, Yohance Humphery and Dick Imer will be inducted into the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame this fall, announced UM Athletic Director Kent Haslam. (Montana Hall of Famers)

The two star running backs, whose playing careers are separated by almost a half-century, are ranked among Montana’s all-time leaders in numerous statistical categories.

The pair will be formally inducted into the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame on Friday, Sept. 5, at a no-host social and banquet hosted by the Doubletree.  The two new inductees will also be introduced at mid-field the following day, Saturday, Sept. 6, prior to the Grizzlies’ 2014 football home opener against Central Washington.

Humphery, from Eagle River, Alaska, played at Montana from 1998-2001.  He is the school’s all-time leading rusher with  4,070 career yards.  He also holds Montana’s single-season rushing record with 1,658 yards in 2001, which is the season Montana won its second Division I-AA national title.

He also owns school records in average rushing yards a game (138.2 ypg in 2001) in a season.  He averaged 116.1 yards per contest on the ground in 1999, which is the second highest average in school history, while his 110.4 average in 2000 is the fifth highest.

Humphery set UM’s single-game rushing record with 265 yards against Weber State in 2001, and he tied the school record with four rushing touchdowns and 38 carries in that game.  Along with his record 265 yards at WSU he is ranked in UM’s top 10 in three other games: eighth, with 201 yards versus Eastern Washington in 2001; ninth, with 197 at WSU in 2000; and 10th with 194 yards at Portland State in 2000.

In the Grizzlies’ 13-6 win over Furman in the I-AA championship game he had 30 carries for 142 yards and scored UM’s only touchdown.  He finished sixth in the balloting for the 2001 Walter Payton Award.  He was a three-time All-American (1999, 2000, 2001).

A 5-11, 190-pounder, Humphery rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns and had seven catches for 63 yards in the 2000 Division I-AA title game, a 27-25 loss to Georgia Southern.  During his four-year varsity career the Grizzlies had an overall record of 45-10 overall and went 28-3 in the Big Sky Conference en route to four league championships.

Humphery and the 2001 UM football team were inducted into the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame in the fall of 2012.  His career totals do not include playoff games (those stats started counting in 2003), but if they did he would have 4,892 career rushing yards, and 2,101 yards in 2001, as well as 54 career rushing touchdowns (he had 43 regular-season TDs).

Humphery was nominated for consideration for the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame by his high school coach, Tom Huffer Sr., who played football for the Grizzlies in the mid-60’s, who he said was instrumental in getting him to come to UM.

“Coach Huffer loved the Griz and talked about them all the time when I was in high school, so I knew a lot about Montana, and he’s the person who first got me interested in going there,” Humphery said in a recent phone interview.  “I owe him a lot, and plus he kept telling me that he thought I had a chance to get in (to the GSHF), and now that has come true.  When our team got inducted (in the fall of 2012), I was good with that.

“I was surprised when I heard I was going to be inducted – it’s just a great honor,” said Humphery.  Humphery and his wife, Ann, have a daughter, Ellery, who will be one on Oct. 3.

“When I came and visited Montana and looked at the history of Grizzly football it psyched me up, and made me want to emulate the play of guys like (quarterback) Dave Dickenson and all of the great athletes who played for Montana,” Humphery said.  “I knew then that I wanted to play there.

“Every play and every game was a blessing,” said Humphery, who is a licenced social worker and lives in his hometown of Eagle River.  “To be with such great teammates for four years and having the success that we had.  I was just so lucky in a lot of ways, and I am so glad I ended up at Montana!”

From Highland, Indiana, Imer had an exceptional two-year career at Montana. When he finished playing in 1954 he was Montana’s all-time leader in career rushing yards and yards per carry.  He had started his career at the University of Washington, injured a knee, and then transferred to UM.

A half-century after playing, Imer still holds several Montana career and single-season records.  He owns the school mark for average yards per carry at 8.17 (86 carries for 703 yards), which he set in 1953.  He also holds the UM standard in average all-purpose yards a game at 157.7 (1,737 yards in 16 games).  He is currently ranked 12th in career rushing yards with 1,592 in just 16 career games.

Imer’s 889 yards rushing (which was also a conference record) in 1954 were the sixth most in the country (his 703 rushing yards in 1953 ranked him 12th in the nation).  His 8.0-yards per carry averaged in ‘54 (which is still the second highest in UM history) tied him for second in the nation with Penn State halfback Lenny Moore.   He was ranked ninth in the nation in kickoff returns (24.3 ypr) in 1954.

A two-time first team All-Skyline selection, Imer was also twice named an Associated Press honorable mention All-American.  He was voted team MVP at UM following his senior season.  He played one year of pro ball for the Saskatchewan Rough Riders before entering the teaching profession.

“It’s a great honor and I want to give credit to my teammates for making all of those holes for me and blocking for me,” said Imer, who after a one-year stint in the CFL taught and coached in Polson for two years and then moved on to Hardin with his wife Betty, teaching and coaching there until their retirement.

Dick and Betty still live on their ranch near the Big Horn River.  Their children (and spouses) are Sheri (Harry) Koyama of Hardin, Patti (Steve) Ballock of Great Falls, and Mark (Donna) Imer of Crestwood, Ill.  The couple has seven grandchildren.

After Imer left UW because of his injury he attended Bremerton Junior College where he rehabbed his knee and did not play.  When the head coach at Bremerton, John Zeger, got a job as an assistant coach at Montana, Imer and several of his teammates followed him to Missoula, and several of them (as was Imer) were members of the ROTC program.  Imer then redshirted at UM in 1952 due to transfer rules.

“We didn’t have great records those two seasons I played at Montana, but we had a real good team,” Imer said.  “We played both ways back then (he was a cornerback and safety), so we had about 15 guys who were one of our 11 players who were on the field almost all of the time.  Our schedule was really tough (UM played the likes of BYU, Wyoming, Colorado State, and Utah State in the Skyline Conference).  I really had several teammates who were outstanding athletes.”

Imer picked up the nickname, “The Little Penguin,” during his playing days at Montana, and it did not come from the running style of the diminutive but speedy halfback, who was 5-foot-6 and weighed 170 pounds.

“We wore black jerseys and white helmets back then, and it was actually one of my teammates, Clayton Schulz (a quarterback from Dillon), who came up with that,” Imer said.  “Clayton was a writer for the Kaimin, and he called me that in one of his stories in the school paper and it stuck.”

Humphery and Imer become the 52nd and 53rd athletes to join the prestigious Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame as individuals (there are five teams currently in the GSHF).  The 2013 inductees were former women’s soccer standout Courtney (Mathieson) Jenkins, along with the 1972 Grizzly men’s track and field squad, which garnered Montana’s first and only conference championship. 

— Montana Sports Information