College Football

Hlas: Iowa State star David Montgomery: Old soul in Memphis

Star running back came to Ames for "the actual diversity"

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — David Montgomery is different.

He’s an Iowa State sophomore running back whose musical taste is a step back in time, in line with the city he is in this week to play in Saturday’s Liberty Bowl.

“I’m more of a Marvin Gaye, Al Green — I like some of that Barry White, some of that Sam Cooke.” he said. “I’m old soul.

“If you can’t listen to old-school, you can’t see where you came from. I’m an old-school kid.”

David Montgomery is different.

He has 1,382 total yards this season on 269 touches. But he hasn’t lost a fumble. Neither has his team, making it the first to go through an FBS regular season without one.

“To an extent, it’s very absurd,” Montgomery said. "Now it’s just muscle memory. When you do it for so long it kind of just happens naturally.

“If we don’t take care of the ball, we can’t score. We take pride in not losing a fumble. We take pride in protecting the football because a football’s not a football. It’s the most-prized possession in the world. Take care of it and it’ll take care of you.”

David Montgomery is different.

Though he missed most of the Cyclones’ final regular-season game because of a leg injury, he still has a total of 104 forced missed tackles. Is that a lot? Well, it’s a statistic Pro Football Focus has kept since 2014, and the previous season-high was the 89 of Florida State’s Dalvin Cook last year.


“He’s certainly the heartbeat of our football program,” Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Manning said Thursday. “Not the only guy, but a guy who certainly has a tremendous effect on our players because of the way he works and the way he cares about his teammates, the way he cares about his coaches. He’s a phenomenal guy to have back and ready to roll.”

David Montgomery is different.

Asked why he came to Iowa State from his Cincinnati home, he didn’t say it was an opportunity to play Big 12 football or he formed some great relationship with a Cyclone coach.

“What made me go there was the actual diversity,” he said.

The what? Ames was estimated to be 83.1 percent white and 3.1 percent African American in 2016 according to the American Community Survey.

“I’m from the hood,” said Montgomery, an African American. “Coming somewhere where it’s predominantly white ... was definitely a shock to me, but you get to a spot where people are people and you understand it. Me coming to Ames, Iowa was definitely an eye-opener, but it’s something that I needed.”

Wednesday, Montgomery and his teammates visited the National Civil Rights Museum here. It’s located at the former Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated in 1968. Seeing the museum’s exhibits and artifacts, and the balcony on which King was shot, is a powerful experience. Montgomery called it “so surreal.”

“Me, being an African American young man, being able to see what my ancestors, great grandmothers, what they had to actually go through in order for me to just being here and talking to you guys. It’s just amazing. It’s breathtaking.”

I’m not sure I’ve seen an athlete do what Montgomery did before taking reporters’ questions Thursday. He shook hands with each of us. I’d bet King would have liked what the young ballplayer said to us.

In football, Montgomery said, “we have different races, different kinds of people. You can’t really be a team if you’re not together.


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“Change only happens in small groups. If we’re willing to change ourselves within the team, we can be better as human beings.”

He graduated from a Cincinnati high school that he said was “99.7 percent African American” and picked Iowa State as his college home to see “what I can learn from other people, other races, and just being away from home.”

Last month, Montgomery tweeted this quote he came upon: “We were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us and wealth classified us.”

David Montgomery is different. He is a 20-year-old running back who loves old soul, and just might have one.



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