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Steve Hackney adjusts the helmet of a Montana football player.

MISSOULA — Former University of Montana Equipment Manager Steve Hackney has been selected as the first-ever recipient of the UM athletic department's new Grizzly Lifetime Honors Award.

The new award "is to pay tribute and give recognition to supporters of Grizzly athletics who are not eligible for the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame, which includes only athletes and coaches." Those eligible to be nominated for the Grizzly Lifetime Honors Award may be past or current UM administrators and employees, boosters/community members, support staff, and volunteers.

"What a great honor," Hackney said. "I loved my years working in Grizzly athletics and made a lot of great friends along the way. I really liked getting to know the athletes, coaches, staff, and administrators. We were family.

"Of course, I had a lot of great memories as well," he said. "It was a highlight to be a part of the two national football championships that the Griz won, as well as many of the NCAA basketball tournaments the men's and women's teams got to play in. I enjoyed all the sports and the athletes, and I'm a lucky man to have been a part of Grizzly athletics. I'll always love the Griz, the University and the state of Montana."

A banquet will be held in early fall to present Hackney with the award and to induct former Griz football standout Matt Wells into the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame.

"I cannot think of a more deserving recipient of the inaugural Grizzly Lifetime Honors Award than Steve Hackney," said Kent Haslam, UM's director of athletics. "He is synonymous with Grizzly athletics and beloved by former student-athletes, and current and former coaches and staff. He witnessed and played a role in so many key moments in the history of Grizzly athletics. His contributions to the success of the athletic department and the University of Montana are countless.

"We felt a need to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the success of Grizzly athletics outside of the context of the Grizzly Hall of Fame, which was established to recognize coaches and student-athletes," Haslam said. "We want to honor other contributors while preserving the intent of the Hall of Fame and felt like developing a Grizzly Lifetime Honors award did just that."

A Montana native, Hackney graduated from Hamilton High School in 1962. After graduating he joined the Navy as a 17-year-old, serving as a Spanish linguist during his three-year stint from 1962-65.

After leaving the Navy, he worked for a handful of years in the lumber business, and as a heavy equipment operator and a bartender. He eventually enrolled at Montana in 1968.

He graduated from UM in 1972 with a B.S. degree in Health & Physical Education, with an emphasis in Athletic Training and Physical Therapy. His mentors at the time were Vince Wilson, Nora Staael and the legendary Naseby Rhinehart (UM's head athletic trainer from 1935-82, who was an initial inductee into the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame in the fall of 1993).

Hackney then attended Indiana State, where he earned his master's degree in 1974 in HPE. After his graduation the only jobs available in his field of athletic training were in larger cities, an environment not to his liking, so he returned to his home state.

He returned to work in private sector, then he heard about the position at UM, and the rest, as they say, "is history."

"Hack" became the school's equipment manager in 1981, and after a 30-year career in Grizzly Athletics retired after the football season in 2010. UM's equipment complex was named the Hackney Athletic Equipment Center in his honor following his retirement.

The banquet to honor Hackney and Wells is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 7 at the Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown with a social hour from 6:00-7:00 p.m., dinner at 7:00 p.m., and the awards ceremony to follow. The next day the pair will be recognized in Washington-Grizzly Stadium, as Montana hosts Drake on the gridiron.

Steve and his wife Larae, who recently retired from UM's School of Business & Business School, have two children: Tyler and Meghan.

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