By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 25, 2009
Former Centreville football coach Mike Skinner chuckled when asked to recall a moment that best summarized Will Montgomery, the Washington Redskins offensive lineman competing this week to replace injured guard Randy Thomas.
Skinner could have picked a number of memories: Montgomery trying out at quarterback as a wiry freshman, him playing tight end as a 175-pound sophomore tight end, or him showing up for football weightlifting on the day he was the starting pitcher for Centreville's baseball team in the state tournament.
Really, though, there was only one real choice: the 2000 state championship game. Centreville had blown a 28-point lead, and with just 1 minute 17 seconds left on the clock, its opponent, Deep Creek, was lined up for a two-point conversion that would tie the score. ("If it went to overtime, we were done," Skinner said.) Montgomery, a two-way starter who had played every snap of the game, blasted through the line, sniffing out an option call.
With Deep Creek's DeAngelo Hall awaiting a pitch, Montgomery took down the quarterback before he could get rid of the ball, sealing the win for the Wildcats.
"As a head coach, [Montgomery] is the reason I have a state title," Skinner said. "Don't get me wrong: A lot of guys on the team were great players. But he made the play that sealed that victory for us. . . . Greatest play I've been around. He doesn't make the play, they score. It's blocked [and] they got it."
Hall, now Montgomery's teammate on the Redskins, was asked whether he knew who made that critical play nine years ago.
"I know Will," Hall said. "Me and Will went to [Virginia] Tech together, and I don't think he was the one that caught him in the backfield."
Told that it was indeed Montgomery who made the play, Hall still was not convinced.
"I never heard Will talk about it," he said. "We have been together for a long time, so I thought he would've mentioned that. But I would've whooped his [butt] by now had I known all that. Good play."
The play encompassed all that Montgomery was about, Skinner said.
"He doesn't say much," Skinner said. "He's very quiet, but he's very reliable, very dependable."
The reserved Montgomery might not say much, but this year he has proven his worth through that same reliable play.
Considered an on-the-bubble player entering training camp, Montgomery surprisingly earned a spot on the roster because of his ability to play center and both guard spots.
When Thomas tore his triceps during last Sunday's 9-7 win over the Rams, Montgomery stepped in. He performed well, coaches said, though he did get overwhelmed on one play that kept quarterback Jason Campbell from hitting wide receiver Santana Moss on a probable touchdown pass.
"I think I played solid," said Montgomery, who has started six career games during stints with the Carolina Panthers and New York Jets. "I think there was a few plays I could have done better on. Obviously, I wasn't perfect. But I think I went in, and I helped the team win."
This week, coaches announced that Montgomery and 2008 third-round draft pick Chad Rinehart would compete for the starting role in practice.
Redskins Coach Jim Zorn said he expects to name the starter before practice Friday afternoon to give the player full repetitions with the starters. On Thursday, he and offensive line coach Joe Bugel praised Montgomery and Rinehart, indicating no clear leader.
"There's not a whole lot of difference," Bugel said. "They're both tough guys. They're very smart football players, and you can flip a coin and I don't think you'd go wrong with either one."
For Montgomery, working his way onto the team -- and into the starting lineup -- is nothing new.
Montgomery garnered a couple division I-AA scholarship offers, and none from the elite division I programs, so he walked on at Virginia Tech. By his sophomore year, he was starting on the offensive line and would go on to start 36 of 43 career games.
After being projected as a third- to fourth-round NFL draft pick, Montgomery slid to the seventh round in 2006 before being taken by Carolina, the first of three teams in three years.
"There's no perfect science to the draft or college recruiting or anything," Montgomery said. "I think sooner or later if you're playing well someone is going to notice it and give you an opportunity to play and help them win."
At each level, Montgomery became known for his work ethic. Skinner called him "the hardest worker I've ever been around," and Hall said Montgomery still held several workout records at Virginia Tech. So it's no surprise to those who know him that he's made the most of his opportunity with the Redskins.
"As soon as I saw him in the locker room, I knew he was going to make this team," Hall said.
Of course Montgomery's reserved nature hasn't changed either.
As Montgomery walked across the locker room Thursday afternoon following a discussion about the high school state championship game, Hall shouted over to him.
"Hey, you made that tackle?" Hall inquired.
Montgomery looked over his shoulder and smiled slightly giving a quick head nod upward, still no interest in talking trash.
"Oh," Hall said, mimicking the gesture and laughing. "Okay."