Versatile Montesanto Fills Void at Leader Role

The loss of Terrell Suggs to the NFL draft creates two challenges for ASU's defensive line in 2003. The obvious one is the need for sack production. The other dilemma, and just as important, is who will emerge as the unit's leader. Senior Brain Montesanto told DevilsDigest that he is ready to assume both roles.

"The fact I've been here for five years and around the block more than once, they're (his teammates) more willing to listen to my opinion and what I have to say." says Montesanto, "I feel that I have become a leader just from a stand point that I already graduated. Football is just one part of going to school. Guys want to graduate and they see me and say - he can do it, so can I." Another virtue of his leadership is the fact that he started 29 games in his ASU career, which is one of the highest totals among active Sun Devil players.

Some raised an eyebrow when the 6-5 Montesanto, who tips the scales at only 261 pounds, was moved from defensive end to tackle. He admits that in the beginning the transition was challenging, and his bulk (or lack of) was a considerable hindrance. "You get doubled team a lot at tackle, especially in the run game, and you get blown out of the hole a lot. It actually happened to me and that was a hard aspect to get used to." The escalation in the physical level has also its implications on the mental approach to this position. "At defensive end you don't get hit as much, and as hard. At tackle you just get crushed sometimes and it feels like it's coming from everywhere. That's one of the main things you have to prepare for mentally – a physical game."

On the other hand, he believes that his other attributes help him when pressuring opposing quarterbacks. "In the pass rush I feel I have the advantage because I'm quicker and lighter to fit in the gaps." Montesanto says, "I guess it all balances out. The coaches feel that I'm the type of person that can handle being lighter. I myself would like to be a little heavier, but I don't want to gain too much where I lose my speed and edge." If shuttling between end and tackle is his destiny, Montesanto fully embraces it. His experiences, he says, have helped him adjust to the switch. "I grew up a defensive end, and the transition to defensive tackle made it easier mindset wise. You don't have to think about so many things, just focus on your job. I'm always gonna be comfortable moving back and forth."

Montesanto says that he's having a good pre-season, and that his objectives in Camp Tontozona have been accomplished." "I wanted to improve the most on my run defense. Being a little lighter than most defensive tackles, you have to have better technique, and better footwork to do your job. That's what I really tried to focus on in camp, and I think I really did improve." The defensive tackle is both excited and overwhelmed embarking on his last season in the maroon and gold. "I'm kinda in aw. Five years? I never thought I would make it five years after my first camp. It really hasn't hit me that I've done camp T for the last time. Maybe because everybody is so excited for the season…" The senior has no regrets on how his career progressed in Tempe. Well, actually there is something he wished he could have done differently. "Right now I'm happy with the way things have turned out. I'm sure all those things about the last Camp T will hit me later in the season. I probably should have taken a doorknob or a piece of grass from there so I can remember it (smile). But I'm sure I'll be back as a spectator. "

A recent graduate in Justice Studies, he is keeping his eligibility by enrolling in graduate classes towards a Criminology degree. "I need another year of studies this year to graduate after. So right now, I'm looking at this as knocking off some classes towards my degree. I'm only taking nine hours – It's kinda relaxing." His major begs the question – is the hit TV show CSI his favorite one? "Sure, when I get to watch TV" (smile).

The inevitable questions about life post-Terrell Suggs don't bother the defensive tackle. This is mainly because he isn't apprehensive of what lies ahead. "We're gonna miss him because he added so much to our defense." says Montesanto, "But with the amount of talent and the type of players we have, it's not gonna affect our defense that much. Nick Johnson is a great player; Jimmy Verdon is a great player. We have to step it up and bring the sack number up. I really think that can be done with our talent." What he doesn't mind admitting is that he does get motivated by those who predict tough times for a defensive line that lost last year's Lombardi Trophy winner. "Yeah, I guess it does put a chip on my shoulder, and motivates me to do a better job. Maybe you guys (in the media) should ask us how we'd do without Suggs every week (smile)…we know we have to produce more than last year now that Terrell is gone. It sets a goal for us, and we're anxious to do so."

Another source of adversity for ASU's front four, was the loss of Ricky Parker due to his off-the field transgressions. Once again, Montesanto believes that a negative situation can easily foster a more productive environment. "It (adversity) does make us stronger. We're real close with each other on the defensive line. When we lose people it's really hard, but we know it's a part of the game. I came in a class of 22 people and there are only five of us left, so I know how it is to lose people. You don't want things to happen, but at the same time you expect them to happen. We just try to cover it up and tie the lose ends."

With Brian Montesanto's positive outlook and motivation for excellence, one shouldn't be surprised to hear him say that this is the best defensive line unit in his ASU tenure. "I do believe so. We got a lot of experience coming back. Nick Johnson and Shane Jones aren't first year players anymore. Everyone knows the defense. As a whole we are better and we will produce." And coming from one of the steadiest producers on the field, one should not take those words lightly.

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