First year of high school football proves fruitful for Montgomery

Sam Montgomery, 6-foot-4, 220 pounds
ESPN 150 Watch List defensive end
Greenwood (S.C.)

Sam Montgomery has been taking much of the recruiting world by storm. Despite 2007 being his first season of high school football, he quickly rose among the nation's elite defensive-line recruits. He has racked up more than 15 scholarship offers, been named an Under Armour All-American and is an ESPN 150 Watch List prospect. None of this has really shocked the athletic defensive end.

"I worked out, kept myself in top-top shape. I always knew I could be a great football player, I just never went out," said Montgomery.

He played football in middle school but concentrated on basketball, his first love, when he hit high school. It was some poorly-received advice that kept him off the gridiron.

"At first I didn't trust the head coach [Shell Dula]. Some of the past players said that he messed them up. Being hard headed I listened to the other guys," Montgomery said.

That advice kept him away from football. He declined to play his freshman and sophomore years, despite concerted efforts by others to get him on the field. Finally, heading into his junior year, he made the decision himself to play, and he found out the opinions of others didn't apply to him.

"I just went out and tried it, and I found out he [Dula] was a great guy and I busted my butt for him. When I went out for football I feel in love with the whole coaching staff, they are all great men."

Montgomery's relationship with his head coach is strong; he considers him a father figure. He says the team's assistants -- Tom Butler, Dennis Thomas and Jimmy Towe -- are like his uncles.

With a good relationship formed, the 6-foot-4, 220 pound athlete quickly caught on and excelled. Although many people warned him it would be a big jump from middle school to varsity, the confident Montgomery never worried.

"I didn't think it was a big jump. I am big, fast, I knew I could get stronger, I can move quicker, I can get off the line and I can get after the quarterback," he said.

His time on the basketball court helped him quickly take to his new sport. The conditioning made him feel like time between plays and timeouts were an unneeded bonus. His ability to run and make plays astoundingly landed him an offer from N.C. State about a week into the season. He went on to garner all-region and all-state honors with 65 tackles and 20 sacks.

Montgomery's raw ability and confidence helped him make a big splash, but he feels the future is even brighter.

"Last year I was a regular athlete. A big kid that could run fast. You take that regular athlete and put him in the weight room and train him for a year and I am now starting to think in my mind I have no limits."

The 2008 season could be even bigger for this natural football player, and that is scary. With all his success he has allowed himself to stay focused and be coachable.

"You should never get too big headed to where nobody can't tell you something, so I always stay pretty grounded."

With multiple offers from all over the country, Montgomery is planning to take his time, looking at a possible national signing day announcement. He does know he wants to take official visits to Southern Cal, LSU and Miami. He also knows he wants to keep pursuing his dream of being a college basketball player. Pundits might warn him not to follow his hoop dreams. However, after the year Montgomery had in 2007, it might not be very wise to tell him what he can't do.

Montgomery's Scouts Inc. Evaluation
Montgomery is an exciting prospect. He is fairly new to the game of football with only one year under his belt. Despite being green, he looks to be a natural at the game. He has wonderful athletic ability but also displays the ability to do some of the little things that can make a player successful. He reminds us of 2008 prospect Courtney Upshaw who was also pretty inexperienced but caught on quickly and became one of the top defensive end prospects in his class.

First off, Montgomery, who is also a basketball player, has a good frame to add bulk and looks on film to have an amazing wingspan. He displays the ability to quickly get off the ball whether working from a two- or three-point stance. Despite being kind of tall and lean he will play with good leverage. He can get under a defender's pads and generate power from his lower body. He is a physical kid who looks to punish when he makes contact with an opponent. He can get his hands lost at times and attack with his shoulder, but for a raw player he will do a pretty good job of consistently shooting his hands and creating separation and shedding. He moves well laterally and can stretch a play east and west. Has the quickness to slice into open seams and get penetration.

Despite being inexperienced he displays the ability to come across the line of scrimmage squeeze down and stay square. He will get hands on linemen who pass his face. He has a good motor and hustles to the ball. He needs to improve his pursuit angles. He has good straight-line speed to chase plays down. His long arms help him to reel in ball carriers. He flashes the ability to quickly change directions. He has all the tools to be a dangerous pass rusher. His get-off and long arms could make him a menace off the edge. He needs to keep developing this part of his game and construct a plan of attack and develop moves. He has the raw ability to get to the quarterback but can get caught chest-to-chest with blockers at times.

Montgomery is an excellent prospect. He plays the game well now and still has very nice upside. It will be interesting to see what strides he makes as a senior with a year under his belt. A player to keep an eye on.

Craig Haubert is recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. Drop Craig a line in his mailbag.