Remember that story about the two Native American siblings who excelled in athletics, making it off the reservation and into the college ranks? Tucker and Jerry Louie-McGee do. That’s them in a nutshell – and they just might be the next in line to replicate the formula of success used by basketball stars Shoni and Jude Schimmel.
Since making some serious waves in high school football, these two Coeur d’Alene tribal members are tackling a less-traveled route: Division I college football. Tucker just completed his second season at Idaho State University, while Jerry was a preferred walk-on at the University of Montana.
“We’re the next set of siblings in college sports for Native Americans,” Jerry said. “I’m excited. I want to represent my people. And I want to show everybody in the U.S. and around here who I am, who my people are and that we can ball.”
Their parents sought a better education and increased exposure for their two sons, who are a year apart. Five years ago, they moved from the reservation town of Worley, Idaho to Coeur d’Alene, where they showed up at Lake City High School.
Tucker and Jerry courtesy of Wade McGee
Tucker and Jerry’s traditional braids stood out at the dominantly white institution, where the brothers say many held a narrow view of the local tribe. “There was just really not any diversity whatsoever,” Jerry recalled. “A lot of those kids didn’t know much about Native Americans. One of my friends asked me if I still live in a teepee and it totally blew my mind. They have not been educated on Native Americans and it really shocked me.
“Moving up, it was pretty difficult because kids have their jokes,” he added, “and they’re not meaning to be mean but it was hard. I got to know those kids; they got to be my friends.”
Working hard in high school, the brothers managed to achieve an All-State ranking – Tucker felt his demonstration of this work-ethic would benefit Native Americans down the line.
Father Wade McGee, Tucker Louie-McGee, mother Debbie Louie-McGee courtesy of Wade McGee
“I felt like if we played well at Lake City High School, more Native Americans would come up in the levels and want to compete with themselves more and get a better education at the bigger schools.”
After high school, Jerry was wooed by the University of Montana and Tucker is now at Idaho State University.
Now that Jerry has ascended to the Division I, his brother says he has someone to lean on and vice-versa. “It’s very relieving and comforting knowing that I could go to him with anything I have,” Tucker said. “If he has any questions he can come to me.”
Tucker, a 6-foot, 1-inch wide receiver played sparingly this season for the Bengals, catching just one pass for seven yards. The redshirt freshman didn’t quite achieve his goal of reaching the starting lineup, but he did make progress.
“I’m looking forward to next year,” he said. “I’m not going to dwell on the past. This year’s over with.”
Jerry, a 5'9” wide receiver who redshirted this season, focused on academics, gaining muscle and learning the playbook. He hopes the hard work will result in playing time on special teams next season.
Jerry Louie-McGee Courtesy of University of Montana Athletics
“I don’t have any experience yet,” he said, “so I just got to be patient and take my time. These guys are good here.”
Idaho State is the alma mater of former NFL All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen, but have had just one winning season in the past 10 years. In contrast, Montana has produced several NFL-caliber players and has had just one losing season in the past 10 years.
Though the brothers are at different schools, the distance doesn’t stop them in being competitive in just about everything they do. “I don’t think people know how competitive we really are,” Tucker said. “We could be eating and we’ll see who can eat faster. We could be hunting and we’ll see who can get the deer first, or who can get the elk first. It’s always something like that.”
One advantage Tucker has over Jerry is experience at quarterback, a position he played throughout high school before making the transition in college. “I feel like I can see the differences better because I did play quarterback,” he said.
Jerry, a former state champion short-distance runner in high school, is quicker, Tucker admits. Given a chance to showcase their talents, the brothers believe they will make a big splash on the Big Sky.
“I think it will be real exciting just because the Big Sky hasn’t really seen what either of us can do,” Tucker said, “and I feel like we both can do really well in this conference and that we’ll surprise a lot of people.”
Although they are role models themselves, Tucker and Jerry Louie-McGee look up to another set of siblings – and aspire to bring change at a level as high as them.
“I hope one day we can both be good enough to be compared to the Schimmel sisters,” Tucker said, “and, hopefully, one of us can go pro like Shoni did. What they did was awesome. They both got their degrees. I feel like me and Jerry can do the same thing as they did.”
“I just want to be something close to that,” Jerry said.
What would they say if granted a platform to speak to Native American youth?
“How we’ve gotten this far is that we just give 110 percent with everything we do,” Tucker said, “including school, lifting weights, even providing for our family – whether that’s hunting or doing some chores around the house. We just give everything we got in everything we do.”
“I hope I can get the attention from the Native Americans around and show that we can do this and that there shouldn’t be any excuses,” Jerry said. “I hope when I’m done with this I can bring this back to my rez and my people and really affect all of them and let them know anything’s possible you just have to work.”