Mon­tez be­lieves he is the “best, bad­dest dude on the field” at CU

The Denver Post - - SPORTS -

Is the rise for real? Or was Colorado foot­ball a one-hit won­der? It’s all on the shoul­ders of quar­ter­back Steven Mon­tez now. But think he’s wor­ried? Think again.

“I feel like quar­ter­back is one of those rare po­si­tions in foot­ball where you have to think you are the best, bad­dest dude on the field at all times. That’s how I look at the game and that’s how I play the game,” Mon­tez told me. “You al­most have to ven­ture into cocky to go out there and per­form ex­tremely well as a quar­ter­back.”

The best rea­son to be­lieve the Buf­faloes won’t fall out of the na­tional rank­ings and back to earth could be found Fri­day, stand­ing on the CU prac­tice field. If all suc­cess in col­lege foot­ball be­gins with a big-time quar­ter­back, then Mon­tez (6-foot-5 and 225 pounds) cer­tainly looks the part. After win­ning twice as a starter last sea­son, in­clud­ing the team’s break­out vic­tory against Ore­gon, he acts as if re­plac­ing Sefo Li­u­fau at QB will be no big deal.

“On the field, you’ve got to lead,” Mon­tez said. “As a quar­ter­back, you’ve got to find a way to go win.”

But the sun that felt so warm and com­fort­able on Mon­tez’s broad shoul­ders in March can quickly turn to a white-hot spot­light in his face, if Colorado squan­ders its new­found foot­ball re­spect in Septem­ber.

From his first start for the Buf­faloes, when Mon­tez threw for 333 yards and ran for 135 yards, there was no ques­tion he has the phys­i­cal gifts to be a topflight quar­ter­back, even in a con­fer­ence as tal­ent-rich as the Pac-12.

So I wanted to talk with Mon­tez about lead­er­ship. The CU pro­gram will deal with some­thing in 2017 it hasn’t ex­pe­ri­enced in at least a decade: the pres­sure of ex­pec­ta­tions. Mon­tez be­lieves a quar­ter­back that won’t wilt when his team is trail­ing by 10 points at half­time has to know when to kick butt and kick back.

“If you’re work­ing hard all the time, and ev­ery sec­ond of the day, you’re all about busi­ness, I feel like no one on the team is go­ing to want to kick it with you, be­cause you’re no fun to be around,” Mon­tez said. “So, in prac­tice, some­times I’ll start danc­ing. You can’t be afraid to goof off a lit­tle. As a quar­ter­back, you have to have a good mix of hard-work ethic, when it’s time to work hard, and also the abil­ity to get with the guys on the team and vibe to build that ca­ma­raderie.”

To rise above a decade of los­ing foot- ball re­quires blood, sweat and a stub­born re­fusal to quit. A lit­tle luck also helps. The Buf­faloes stole Mon­tez out of the foot­ball-crazy state of Texas, with­out the Longhorns or Ag­gies notic­ing. He be­lieves it’s be­cause El Paso, where Mon­tez at­tended Del Valle High School, is bet­ter known for ath­letes who score goals on the soc­cer pitch than throw touch­down passes in the high school play­offs.

It was at Del Valle, how­ever, where Mon­tez dis­cov­ered he had the stom­ach to be a quar­ter­back, even when the fin­ger of blame was be­ing pointed at him. As a sopho­more, he threw four in­ter­cep­tions and got routed in the last game of the sea­son by a crosstown ri­val.

“This was def­i­nitely big-time Texas play­off foot­ball, and I went out there and did not per­form well at all. After throw­ing four picks, I was not feel­ing real con­fi­dent. I was not feel­ing like I was the best quar­ter­back in the na­tion,” Mon­tez re­called. “But not long after that hap­pened, some­thing clicked in my head. And I de­cided, if I was go­ing to be a quar­ter­back, I was never go­ing to let that hap­pen to me again.”

Ques­tion marks abound re­gard­ing the Colorado de­fense, which must re­place eight starters from a team that won 10 times in a sea­son for the first time since 2001, but also gave up 79 points in its fi­nal two games.

There’s no doubt, how­ever, about the CU quar­ter­back. Mon­tez does not fear fail­ure. He’s the best rea­son to be­lieve the rise is real.

MARK KISZLA Den­ver Post Colum­nist

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