Nick Montana has definitely come a long way in a short time. Just a few years ago, he was languishing at national powerhouse De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) in an offense that didn't fit him. Now the Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, Calif.) rising senior is one of the most heavily recruited quarterbacks in the nation.
Not bad for a kid who almost didn't play football.
When your last name is Montana and your dad is Joe Montana, the NFL Hall of Famer and arguably the greatest quarterback ever to play the game, there is always going to be a lot of pressure. And when you play the same position? Well, it's usually not a recipe for success.
"I think that's one of the reasons, my parents, but especially my mom tried to steer me away from football when I was growing up," Montana said. "I played soccer and basketball and was never really pushed into football.
"When I was in third grade, I wanted to play but my mom wouldn't let me. She said it was too dangerous and she didn't want me to get hurt. But I think another reason was all the pressure that people would put on me to try and live up to what my dad did."
Montana was finally allowed to play football when he got into the fifth grade, but he started out on the defensive side of the ball.
"Linebacker was the first position I played," Montana said. "I actually liked defense but I eventually fell in love with the quarterback position and started playing there in the seventh and eighth grade."
Montana enrolled at legendary powerhouse De La Salle, but spent just two years in the Spartans' program.
"I love the school and will always root for De La Salle," Montana said. "I learned so much there, especially about hard work and that's something I'll never forget. It was just a situation where my dream was to play college football and maybe even in the NFL someday and I didn't see that happening if I stayed at De La Salle.
"They run the triple option on offense and always have and that just wasn't a good fit for me. It was tough to say goodbye to all my friends but I knew I had to make a tough decision. At the time, my dad was doing some business in Southern California so I started looking around at high schools in the area and ended up at Oaks Christian and things have been going great so far."
That would be a huge understatement. In his first year, Montana led the Lions to a perfect 14-0 season, completing 133 of 241 passes for 2,404 yards and 33 touchdowns with just seven interceptions.
"He got better every game for us," Lions coach Bill Redell said. "He has the ability to make plays with his legs and his arm and is a lot more athletic than I ever thought. He's a great leader as well and is just a tremendous talent."
Montana has been working out with noted quarterbacks coach Steve Clarkson for years. Clarkson, who has worked with some of the top prospects over the past few years, including Matt Barkley, the No. 1 player in the 2009 ESPNU 150 who is already enrolled at USC, and Notre Dame's starting QB Jimmy Clausen, who was the top quarterback in the 2007 class.
"He's really a special kid and different than anyone I've worked with," Clarkson said. "Matt Barkley was just a physical specimen and can throw the ball down your throat. Jimmy Clausen had a swagger to him and a flair for the dramatic.
"Nick has all the physical tools but is very cerebral as well. He's a lot like his dad but bigger and has a calming effect on everyone around him. As good as he is now, he's still just learning and maturing physically. As a result, I really think his upside is off the charts. He has the perfect temperament for the position and will be a great college player."
Recruiters have noticed just that. Montana has seen his stock soar in recent months and holds scholarship offers from heavyweight programs like Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, Florida State, LSU and Notre Dame just to name a few.
"I'm still very open right now and have a lot more visits to take," Montana said. "I want to check out Alabama, Arizona, Georgia and Florida State but haven't set dates with them yet. My main focus these next two weeks is on the SAT but once I knock that out, I'll be hitting the road.
"I'm also interested in USC and Tennessee, those are two schools that haven't offered but are showing a lot of interest and I already visited Ohio State and loved it there. I'm just trying to find the best overall fit for me and don't really have a time frame of when I want to decide."
There's more to it than X's and O's for Montana. It has to be a good fit and that doesn't necessarily mean he has to be under center from the minute he steps on campus. He knows a thing or two about patience. His old man once was buried on the Notre Dame depth chart, wasn't drafted until the third round and didn't start in the NFL until midway through his second year. If it can happen to him, well, it can happen to anybody.
"I don't mind redshirting either but I am looking at depth charts a little. Obviously if you ask any quarterback, we always want to play, but that won't be the biggest factor to me, more like an added bonus if it works out that way," Montana said.
"I guess I'm kind of looking for that special feeling you get when you know the school is right for you. So on one of my upcoming visits, if the school feels right to me, I could commit on the spot or just keep looking around and wait to evaluate everyone."