MONTEZ A LEADER
Redshirt sophomore to start
BOULDER» Steven Montez looked out of place Thursday, a 6-foot-5 redshirt sophomore University of Colorado quarterback towering over nearby reporters, who huddled together around football coach Mike MacIntyre outside the Buffaloes’ fall camp practice fields. Montez wanted to ask a question. Didn’t happen.
“I just wanted to get one in for coach Mac,” he said, “and you know, lighten the mood.”
Smiles were plentiful during CU’s fifth preseason practice, the first in full pads, with Montez at the lead. And why wouldn’t he grin? After splitting time with Sefo Liufau last year, tallying a 2-1 record as a starter in addition to 1,017 passing yards and nine touchdowns, Montez will be the featured quarterback on Sept. 1 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High against Colorado State.
He’ll continue to keep his roommates loose, too, with jokes like the reporter gag throughout the season —“He always plays around,” senior receiver Shay Fields said — that fall in line with Montez’s unique leadership role in 2017.
According to the pre-fall camp depth chart, there are eight starting seniors on the offense, including several major preseason award watch list candidates in running back Phillip Lindsay (Doak Walker, Maxwell) and receivers Devin Ross and Fields (Biletnikoff ). Offensive tackle Jeromy Irwin is also a near consensus preseason firstteam all-Pac 12 selection.
MacIntyre summed it up this way: “Sefo wished he would have had an offense with this much experience and this much talent around him.”
Montez, who turns 21 in January, is well aware of the veteran leadership.
“I don’t try to do too much or step on anybody’s toes,” Montez said. “I know this is probably more Phil’s and Jeromy’s team than it is mine. I just see myself as someone to make their dreams come true, as well as mine.”
And still, Montez’s teammates will counter he is already a proven leader. That was apparent in Montez’s first start at Oregon last fall, when the redshirt freshman threw for 333 yards and rushed for 135 with a combined four touchdowns in the program-vaulting 41-38 victory.
“That level of confidence, I could see it in Montez last year when he was about to take on Oregon,” senior center Jonathan Huckins said. “His demeanor and his way about him that week really just pepped up and he was ready to go. He knew exactly what he had to do.”
He didn’t really back down, even being the backup, he really took assertion, went out and told guys, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that.’ I think that really helped him transition into this year.”
Montez’s progression at the position in year three with the program is clear. MacIntyre says he kept close watch on his quarterback’s decision-making Thursday, the first rush-heavy practice of fall camp, and left more confident with Montez’s growth in specific areas.
“I’ve been pleased with how he’s been able to understand the protection better now,” MacIntyre said. “He understands who the free guy is and he understands, when the blitz is coming, how to get rid of it and how to dump it to his back on certain situations.”
Said Montez: “I’m more acquainted with the progressions and just knowing where to go with the ball when certain things happen on the field.”
But not without some laughs along the way. Montez’s personality manifests itself on game days as well, especially in the huddle. Huckins said, “If something is really intense and coaches are really getting on us, he can be that guy that comes in and says, ‘Hey, it’s just another play. Let’s just relax.’ ”
For Montez, it’s simply a matter of mind-set.
“Football is a game and I believe it’s supposed to be fun, that’s how I kind of approach it,” he said. “I understand that sometimes things need to get serious, and we need to get things done. But for the most part, I just like to get out there and have a good time with the guys, get everybody laughing.
“Because when everybody starts having fun and having a good time, that’s when people start playing loose and playing well.”
Buffs quarterback Steven Montez throws during practice on Thursday.