Coming out of high school, Keli'i Montibon had just one offer -- from Army. He was a full-qualifier, and felt that all he needed was the right exposure. So, he headed to Riverside City College in Los Angeles. The Kamehameha Hawaii Campus product's freshman season didn't go quite as planned, as he played through a broken left middle finger and then broke his left forearm in his final game, but he's persisted. He's healed up, "almost 100 percent," he said.
"I just trusted God and took the JuCo route," he said. "One of my coaches knew coach Shandon [Silva] and [James] Kuk here at Riverside, and they had a bond, and they talked. They met up, and they were talking, and I talked with coach Silva, and coach Kuk, and I just felt comfortable, so I trusted their word. I took it, ran with it, put my head down and worked hard."
His skills sharpened, his football IQ rose, and Montibon became more confident in his play.
"I'd been talking to coach Steve Greatwood for some time now, about a month, and he had texted me today," said Montibon, who holds a 3.8 GPA after one semester at Riverside. "We were talking about visiting, going on an official visit, and we ran into some problems, and things got straightened out, and he gave me a text, saying to give him a call, and we could talk about a date to come up and take my visit."
With the 6-foot-3, 290-pounder hadn't dared to think he'd be getting an offer, much less one to join the Bears in fall camp, but that's how the conversation turned.
"We were talking about what date we were trying to shoot for, and what I would do up there on a visit, getting things rolling, and then, after all of that, he said, 'And, we have an offer for you, here,'" Montibon said. "At that moment, I didn't know what to feel. I was just stoked, relieved. I was just happy. I was just talking to him about a vistit, no offer or anything. I just thought I was going to go on a visit and check it out, and see how things go from there, so he kind of surprised me with it."
Montibon's visit is tentatively scheduled for the weekend of March 17.
"He asked me if I was doing anything on Fridays, and I told him that we don't have practice or class on Fridays, so he said he could fly me up on Friday morning, and I could go through meetings with them, watch practice, get the feel for how things are up there," Montibon said.
The fact that Greatwood -- who indicated that Keli'i would come in as a guard -- has been a coach for so many Islander linemen during his three decades-plus at Oregon gives Montibon a sense of comfort, as does the presence of former Riverside guard Dwayne Wallace. The two never crossed paths on the field, but during Cal's trip to Los Angeles this past season, the two connected.
"During our season, after one of their games, he stayed down in Riverside, came and watched one of our practices, and I didn't really talk to him much, but he watched one of our games that weekend," said Keli'i, who wound up talking to Wallace about his experience in Berkeley. "He said he liked it, it's a great place, very nice, great academics."
Keli'i intends to re-connect with Wallace as his visit nears. He's not sure about whether he'll visit Nevada or Florida Atlantic.
"I'm still thinking things over," he said.