Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina and Catamount Athletics were saddened to learn of the unexpected passing of former Catamount three-sport standout Jerry Gaines last week. Gaines was a former All-America selection for the Catamount football team in 1974, concluding his four-year playing career as the all-time leading receiver in program history – a record he continues to hold today.
A tremendous athlete – and highly regarded as one of, if not the, best athlete in school history – Gaines was inducted into the WCU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991 as WCU’s only three-sport All-America selection. In addition to the 1974 football All-America selection, Gaines was a first team American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) All-America honoree in 1975, while also earning North Carolina Collegiate Athlete of the Year plaudits. Additionally, Gaines earned the national All-America recognition in both the long and triple jump in track & field in 1971 and 1972.
On the football field, Gaines amassed 3,449 career receiving yards on 167 catches – an astounding average of 20.7 yards per catch – from 1971-74. He continues to hold the WCU record for most 100-yard receiving performances with 16 during his career including a career-high 209 receiving yards against Florida A&M in 1973 – one of just five, 200-yard receiving performances by a Catamount all-time.
Gaines additionally continues to rank sixth in the WCU record books for both receptions (167) and receiving touchdowns (18). He collected a pair of post-season NCAA Division II All-America honors as a senior in 1974, earning the accolades from both the Associated Press (AP) and from the Kodak / American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) while helping the Catamounts to a 9-1 record and berth in the national playoffs.
Gaines is one of three former Catamount football players to have their numbers honored at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field – and one of just two football numbers that are retired at WCU.
Following his graduation in 1975, Gaines was signed by the Texas Rangers on the baseball diamond where he played for three different teams between 1975 and 1978 including squads in Anderson, S.C., the Asheville Tourists, and Salem.
Family visitation at J.T. Fisher Funeral Services is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 14 from 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm in Chesapeake, Va., with the funeral services to be held at 11:00 am on Monday, Sept. 18 at Grove Church in Portsmouth, Va.