Not only did a shoulder injury end the high school career of John Montelus in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, it put a two-year hurdle in front of the offensive guard.
A one-time national recruit, Montelus arrived at Notre Dame out of shape and needed a year to condition himself into a college football player. That shoulder injury turned into a shoulder surgery as his weight ballooned to 340 as a freshman, dropped 20 pounds as a sophomore, and dropped another 10 pounds since last season. For the first time in his Irish career, Montelus has a fighting chance to play.
However, while he’s been reshaping his body into the prototype guard many saw out of high school, his classmates have been playing their way past him. Now a couple sophomores – Alex Bars and Quenton Nelson – are ahead too.
So what does the future hold for Montelus?
The Irish Illustrated A-to-Z series continues with the junior lineman.
Montelus puts together the best off-season of his career, good enough to displace Quenton Nelson and Alex Bars for the starting left guard position. While that would require a position change that doesn’t appear likely, Montelus wouldn’t be the first offensive lineman to have his career take off in his third season. Chris Watt barely played until his junior year, then started 37 games during his final three seasons.
It’s the same story for Montelus with the starting lineup getting no closer. While he remains on the second team, Quenton Nelson and Alex Bars both pass Montelus, making him the clear fourth guard. Even Colin McGovern puts a charge into the competition. The East Coast prospect becomes a casualty of Notre Dame’s top-notch recruiting along the line, caught in the position’s numbers game.
The issue isn’t that Montelus hasn’t broken into the rotation, it’s that he’s barely seen the field at all. It’s true that Chris Watt didn’t crack the offensive line in full until his third year. But he played in 13 games as a sophomore reserve. Montelus got into the game just once last season, meaning the coaching staff didn’t think he could help the Irish win on Saturday, even on special teams. That makes the career track of Montelus more in line with Mark Harrell and James Bonelli, players who stuck around the roster despite never seeing regular action.
Opinion on Montelus was split out of high school. Scout and Rivals slotted the U.S. Army All-American as elite while ESPN and 247 were more skeptical. Scout ranked Montelus at No. 51 overall and the second-best prospect in that Irish class behind Jaylon Smith. Rivals had Montelus as the nation’s No. 1 guard and No. 74 overall. Meanwhile, 247 put Montelus at No. 250 overall, while ESPN saw a three-star prospect and the No. 27 guard nationally. Based on the past two years and his clogged path to playing time, the lower rankings have been the more accurate ones.
Montelus has played in just one game the past three years, getting in against Michigan last season.
“I think John Montelus is a guy that this spring really now has allowed him, with the reps that he’s taken, to show that he can be a contributor for us. I think time has really helped him a lot and the work that he’s gotten. He’s so physically strong.” – Brian Kelly in April