Washington's Center Of Stability: Will Montgomery
By Ed Sheahin
Success in life is often about being in the right place at the right time. Washington Redskins C Will Montgomery quietly started his 33rd consecutive game last Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. Before Montgomery landed in Washington (in his second stint), he was unable to secure a spot on an NFL roster beyond one season.
Drafted in the seventh round by the Carolina Panthers out of Virginia Tech, Montgomery bounced around the Jets, Panthers and ‘Skins practice squad rosters for three seasons.
In 2009, Montgomery started training camp with the ‘Skins as a long shot to make the team. Buried on the depth chart, there seemed to be little opportunity for the nomadic lineman to land a job.
Legendary ‘Skins offensive line coach Joe Bugel — in the midst of his final season coaching — saw something in Montgomery and decided to keep him on the roster for the 2009 season.
Reflecting on my notes from the 2009 training camp, I remember this quiet, unassuming young man in Montgomery. Unfazed by the limelight of the NFL or the pressures of fighting for a job, Montgomery never hesitated to speak candidly about his future.
“I’m controlling what I can control,” Montgomery once told me during the 2009 training camp. “I don’t feel any pressure. No one has any expectations for me except the coaching staff.”
Montgomery was the most approachable player during a miserable 5-11 2009 season. When players like Albert Haynesworth hid in the players’ room to avoid media sessions, guys like London Fletcher and Will Montgomery were the ones who consistently surfaced in the locker room to face the music.
Montgomery started three games in his first full season with the Redskins. Honestly, like the rest of the team and offensive line, he struggled.
In 2010, the ‘Skins welcomed in two-time Super Bowl champion coach Mike Shanahan and his zone blocking line scheme. Montgomery would only start six games for Washington playing center and guard in Shanahan’s first season. Despite finishing 6-10 — and the media circus between Haynesworth and Shanahan — the team made some small strides to improving the foundation of the organization.
In 2011, Montgomery earned the trust of the coaching staff and became Washington’s starting center. Despite an impressive 3-1 start, the realities of molding a roster in the image of Mike Shanahan combined with the lack of talent at the quarterback position led to Washington struggling through a 5-11 season.
In the 2012 NFL Draft, head coach Mike Shanahan and Vice President/GM Bruce Allen made one of the gutsiest moves in NFL history: They traded three first-round draft picks for the rights to the second pick in the draft — which they realized would likely be Robert Griffin lll — in a move that would either end their careers as Redskins executives very quickly or turn around two decades of struggles for the Washington franchise.
Montgomery now has a 21-year-old phenom relying on him to point out blocking schemes, pick up blitzes, provide bullet-like shotgun snaps and, most of all, provide leadership.
Now a seasoned veteran, it was time for Montgomery and his offensive line mates to ensure the phenom Griffin and rookie sixth-round pick RB Alfred Morris performed to their abilities.
We all know what happened next. Griffin won the 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year Award, became the face of the franchise and is now one of the faces of the NFL. Alfred Morris — perhaps as quiet of an individual as Montgomery — made second-team All-Pro as a rookie running back with over 1,613 rushing yards.
There were no offseason awards for Montgomery following Washington’s run to a 2012 NFC East Division title, and no magazine cover shots or endorsement deals. There were just a few pats on the back from coaches and his weekly paycheck. Knowing the humble Montgomery, he wouldn’t want it any other way.
Despite all the attention and accolades Griffin and Morris garnished last season, salary wise, Montgomery makes a tad more than the two of them combined for 2013.
Slowly, fans and media alike are starting to recognize the talents of the Washington center who anchors an emerging offensive line. With another strong ‘Skins performance in 2013, perhaps this will be the season Montgomery is recognized by so many who knows so little about this enigmatic cog in the ‘Skins rise to success.