Tevin Montgomery’s road to the 2013 International Bowl is a long and winding one, containing more stops than he – or anyone else for that matter – could count on two hands.
Born in Boston, Mass., Montgomery lived in 15 cities and five states, calling West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and Texas home before finally returning to his roots.
Sleeping on countless couches and so many zip codes, Montgomery grew up early, living a life most could not imagine.
He’s lived on ranches, in small towns and deep in the inner city where it wasn’t safe for a young boy walk outside alone – all of them shaping him into the young man he is today. One of those stops was Fort Worth, Texas, just a four-hour drive from where Tuesday night’s game will be played at Austin’s Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex.
“I’d bounce between family, friends, friends of family,” Montgomery said. “The only thing I really wanted was to go to a good school. Finally, I told my mom I was going to Massachusetts on my own.”
Until two years ago, about the only thing he’d never experienced was football – hard to imagine now for the 6-foot-5, 295-pound defensive tackle.
Basketball was Montgomery’s first love. He was a regular on the AAU circuit, drawing attention from smaller Division I colleges and earning a scholarship to a Massachusetts boarding school.
Choosing that sport was made easier in that his first high school didn’t offer football as a varsity sport.
But as Montgomery’s hoop dreams began to appear limited, he decided to give football a try. On advice from a basketball friend, he attended a Boston College football camp and wowed the coaches despite never having played a down before.
That summer, Montgomery transferred to Tabor Academy in Marion, Mass., where he got his first full-time taste of the sport.
“I’m still learning when it comes to football. I’m still pretty raw. I know that,” Montgomery said. “Playing with these guys, how talented they are, will help me greatly.”
Most players can look back on their football careers and recall the best ones with fondness. Montgomery is so new to the sport, he can pretty much remember every down.
The International Bowl will mark just the 13th time Montgomery has suited up for a football game. He played in seven games as a junior but just five as a senior because of injuries.
This is a fact that has stunned his teammates and Team USA coaches.
“He surprised me that first day when he came up and told me he’s only played in 12 games,” Team USA defensive line coach Marc Beach of Daytona Beach (Fla.) Seabreeze High School said. “But he’s honest about it. He’s not trying to hide anything. He’s been really willing to learn and listen. The guys understand, and we all try to help him out.”
Montgomery said his high school assignments were simply “go left” or “go right” and make a play. He never ran a stunt in high school.
That lack of experience could leave a lot of players frustrated, but Montgomery is an eager student.
He’s trying to absorb everything he can in practices, team meetings and after-hour tutoring sessions with Beach.
“It’s a lot to grab on to, but the coaches and my teammates are making it easier,” Montgomery said. “I go to Coach’s room, study film and talk to him about schemes. If a coach says something I don’t understand, I’ll ask. They have been real patient and helpful with me.”
Montgomery’s attitude is contagious, Beach said. His enthusiasm makes it easy for coaches and teammates to want to help.
“I don’t know how much I’m going to be able to teach him in nine days, but we are going to do our best,” Beach said. “He’s got the natural talent. He’s got great feet. He’s got tremendous upside.”
Montgomery’s dreams of playing a major college sport will come true Wednesday, when his short football career comes full circle by signing a national letter of intent with Boston College.
He doesn’t know where football will take him, and while he’s already seen a lot of the country on his own, he’s looking forward to experiencing a whole lot more.
“A lot of people have helped me out, made my life a lot easier than how it may sound,” Montgomery said. “I’ve gotten a lot of help becoming a better football player, a better student, a better person. I’m going to make the most of what I can with it.”