INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — David Montgomery is carrying a ton of people and places around the NFL combine this week.
First, there’s home.
The Cincinnati, Ohio, native mentioned Cincinnati in his first sentence from the lectern Thursday at the combine.
“Simply coming from where I come from in Cincinnati, Ohio, most people don’t get the opportunity to get here or this far,” said Montgomery, who left Iowa State a year early after he rushed for 2,898 yards and 26 TDs in three seasons. “I’m just trying to embrace every experience and everything that’s happening here and actually enjoying there process as well.”
Montgomery said he’s surprised there aren’t more athletes coming out of his hometown, but he’s keenly aware opportunity can be fleeting.
“Sometimes you just live with what you have,” Montgomery said. “That’s what we do in Cincinnati, we just try to claw and scratch at what we can get at. We have a couple guys starting to squirt out of Cincinnati. It’s a blessing to be able to see those kinds of guys and it’s a blessing for me to actually be here myself, one of the few who are doing great.”
Montgomery brought his friend Hunter Erb to the combine. Erb is a 6-year-old Iowan and huge ISU football fan who has had three open-heart surgeries, including a pacemaker. Chronicled wonderfully in a story by The Athletic, Montgomery and his mom embraced Erb, hosting a picnic on his sixth birthday and driving to Iowa City during finals to spend time with him while he was in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
“My mom loves kids. I grew up around kids and my brothers and stuff. I have a young brother (Samuel), that’s my baby boy,” Montgomery said. “Just even like the situation with Hunter, that’s something that was sent from God for me. God sent me something to do, a task to handle and it turned into something way bigger than that.
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“Just to be able to be blessed with that young man and that little boy, to be there is definitely a blessing in my heart and my hands and I’m definitely grateful.”
Montgomery did chat with Hunter this week.
“Just saying he’s praying for me, good luck and asked me did I have an Iowa State jersey for him still,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery, of course, brought Iowa State with him. The Cyclones haven’t had an NFL draft pick in five years (linebacker Jeremiah George was picked by the Jets in 2014). Iowa State hasn’t had a lot of juniors declare early for the draft. Montgomery and wide receiver Hakeem Butler made the jump after the Cyclones’ 8-5 season.
“Definitely, it’s good to see guys leaving Iowa State early,” Montgomery said. “It shows where they’ve been and where they are now. Having guys like me and Hakeem (Butler) and all the other seniors who are trying to make their mark at the next level is definitely big for the program.”
Montgomery was asked two or three times what it means for him to be here, to be on the precipice of what could be a lucrative career as an NFL running back.
He’s not an NFL player, not yet. He hasn’t been picked yet. Even sitting at the lectern in his workout gear at the NFL combine, he wouldn’t allow himself to guess at how it might feel. He actually wants to be drafted before he describes what it’s like.
“It will mean a lot, just being able to give kids back home hope to understand that it’s possible,” Montgomery said. “You’ve just got to have the right mindset and you can’t live to the standards that everybody creates for you. You’ve got to create your own. I was able to create my own and still creating my own trying to live out my dream and give kids back home hope. Definitely it’s big and it means a lot.”
As far as leaving early and leaving a potential void in the Cyclones’ backfield, Montgomery couldn’t say enough good things about ISU’s running back room, which includes Kene Nwangwu, Johnnie Lang and Sheldon Croney and next fall will include Jirehl Brock (a Rivals 4-star) and Breece Hall, a 6-1, 200-pounder from Wichita, Kan.
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“I’ve never anybody as fast as Kene. I haven’t seen anybody as patient as Sheldon. I haven’t seen anybody as quick as Johnnie,” Montgomery said. “I’m sure the younger guys that come in will be studs, but they’ll definitely learn from those older guys as I learned from those guys as well.
“I think the running back room will be one of the best in the country, if not the best.”
Montgomery isn’t looking over his shoulder wondering if he belongs here. No one is. NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah couldn’t have been more complimentary.
“I go back through my list, and I’ve got — gosh, I think 365 players done, and I try and go through and highlight four or five guys at every position that I just kind of like, these are my kind of guys, and if you’re running a team, I’d want somebody like this, the way they play the game with the passion, the toughness,” Jeremiah said. “There’s just something about them, I’d want them on my team, and David Montgomery is one of those guys for me.
“ ... If he’s fully healthy and gets the — passes everything he needs to pass from that standpoint, I think he’s a no-brainer as a second-round pick, and I think he’ll be a day-one starter.”
For what it’s worth, Montgomery was asked twice about playing for the Kansas City Chiefs and megastar QB Patrick Mahomes.
“It will definitely be cool if I were granted the opportunity to play with him and I’d definitely have fun with that,” Montgomery said. “I’m going to have fun with everything I’m doing.”
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