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Montana's Jerry Louie-McGee runs past Northern Colorado defenders earlier this month in Greeley, Colo. Louie-McGee has been named a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award, the honor for the top FCS freshman player of the year.

TOMMY MARTINO, for the Independent Record

MISSOULA -- After a record-breaking debut campaign, Montana wide receiver Jerry Louie-McGee has been named a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award, the honor for the top FCS freshman player of the year.

Louie-McGee, a redshirt freshman out of Coeur d'Alene's Lake City High School, caught 73 passes for 655 yards and three touchdowns in his first year on the field with the Grizzlies in 2016. That included a program-record 21-catch performance against Cal Poly in September that also tied the Big Sky Conference's single-game mark.

He ranked second among Griz with 981 all-purpose yards because of his work in the return game and he also returned a punt for a touchdown early in the season against Northern Iowa.

Twenty-two other freshmen joined Louie-McGee as freshman award finalists when the list was revealed Monday morning. STATS FCS, which distributes the awards, also released its list of 25 finalists for the Buck Buchanan Award (defensive player of the year) and Walter Payton Award (offensive player of the year) this week, along with 15 finalists for the Eddie Robinson Award (head coach of the year).

No Grizzlies were among those groups of finalists. Both quarterback Brady Gustafson and defensive end Caleb Kidder were on the awards' watch lists earlier this season.

Montana's Tyrone Holmes was honored as FCS defensive player of the year after last season. Holmes, now a member of the NFL's Cleveland Browns, is the second Griz to earn the recognition after fellow defensive end Kroy Biermann was named Buck Buchanan winner in 2007.

Quarterback Dave Dickenson is the school's only Walter Payton winner after leading the Griz to the 1995 national championship, the first in program history.

Other Big Sky representatives on the awards lists this week included two offensive players from Eastern Washington, quarterback Gage Gubrud and receiver Cooper Kupp; defensive player Cole Reyes, a safety for North Dakota; freshman Joe Logan, a Northern Arizona running back; and head coach of the UND Fighting Hawks Bubba Schweigert.

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Kupp, now a senior, is the reigning offensive player of the year.

A few of Montana's nonconference opponents from this year also showed up as award finalists. Most belonged to Saint Francis, the team the Griz beat in their season opener way back on Sept. 3. Safety Lorenzo Jerome, who had two interceptions that day against Montana, is a finalist as a defensive player along with offensive player Kamron Lewis, a receiver, and head coach Chris Villarrial.

Northern Iowa defensive end Karter Schult is also a finalist on that side of the football.

A national panel of voters that consists of media members, sports information directors and other dignitaries will select the award winners based on regular-season performances. The winners will be announced at the STATS FCS Awards Banquet on Jan. 6, the evening before the FCS national championships game, in Frisco, Texas.

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