Time isn't running out on Pete Monty. He's only 27 years old.
But according to unwritten NFL chronological terms, he's already middle-aged.
His body feels young and fresh. After seeing the first two seasons of his NFL career cut short because of knee injuries, Monty claims he's as healthy as he's ever been. Doesn't even worry about the knee anymore, he says.
After spending four seasons with the New York Giants, Monty feels like a rookie. Just two weeks into a new system — the Vikings' system — Monty is eager to learn, anxious to play, excited to contribute.
It wasn't too long ago Monty wondered if he'd get the opportunity to prove his mettle. A month after the Giants' season ended in a loss against the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl, Giants coach Jim Fassel had called Monty and told him they'd do everything they could to retain his services.
Fassel's words to Monty last winter weren't as prophetic as his midseason prediction the year before saying the Giants would make the playoffs. Plain and simple, they let him go.
For the first time in more than a decade that spanned a high school, college and professional football career, Monty looked at the calendar, saw that it was August and realized he had no football field to report to, no team to which he belonged.
It was a hollow feeling he won't soon forget.
"It was really frustrating," Monty admitted. "I had a shoulder injury that kept me out of training camp. I felt a little lost. I felt a little out of place during August and September because I've been in football for 12 years and it was awkward. I didn't know what to do."
It didn't take long for Monty, a 3.2 grade-point-average student in high school, to devise a plan. "I had some friends who trade on the NASDAQ in New York and that was where I was going to be heading," he said. "They were former athletes, too, and said that when the bell rings, that has the same game-day feeling as football every day."
He started to put in action a plan that would help launch his new career. But then the Minnesota Vikings called. "When they called I just wanted to play football," Monty said. "I've been out this whole season and I was hungry."
Hunger often comes from expectations. Once you taste the sensational flavors of what winning and success bring, it's hard to satisfy those cravings with anything less than the absolute best.
Monty knows all about success. His football career is synonymous with it.
Monty was team captain and (eventually) named most valuable player of his Fort Collins (Colo.) High School football team. As a senior, Monty recorded 116 tackles as a linebacker. On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Monty, as a fullback, rushed for 750 yards. To no one's surprise, he was named an All-Midlands Conference player, a Colorado all-state player and a member of the USA Today All-American honorable mention team.
Naturally, Monty was a hot commodity out of high school. Playing high school football in Colorado, Monty virtually had his pick of west coast schools. California University was calling. So, too, was Stanford University. And the University of Oregon.
Rather than head west to the Left Coast, Monty went east — to the Midwest. He became the fifth generation on his mother's side to attend the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
When he made his recruiting visit to Madison he had no idea he was going to commit on the spot. But … "I had such a great time," Monty said of his recruiting visit. "All the guys on the team were like guys from my high school. During my visit, Coach (Barry) Alvarez had the recruits over to his house and sat down and talked to everyone in his office and knew right then and there I wanted to go to Wisconsin."
Case closed. Monty, a Colorado native, was now a Badger.
Wander the campus of Wisconsin on a college football game day and it's nearly impossible not to let your senses take over. North, south, east and west, everywhere you look you see a panoramic view of Cardinal red and white. From a distance, you can hear the roars of the crowd, the pregame cheers coming from fans inside the stadium as well as the folks still tailgating in parking lots near Camp Randall Stadium.
What Monty remembers most is the smell, the aromas of bratwurst sizzling and snapping over the charcoal grills. Didn't matter if it was the first weekend in September or the last weekend in October, regardless if it was 60 degrees and sunny or 10 degrees and drizzle, the fans always filled Camp Randall to capacity to support their beloved Badgers.
"The brats on the grill, the beers were in their hands. … It didn't matter what the temperature was outside, they were there having a great time," Monty said. "I wouldn't trade that experience for anything.
"Playing for Coach Alvarez and his coaching staff was like playing for your family. Everyone was so close that you always had a good time. Playing in Camp Randall is an unbelievable experience with our student section and all the support we get from the entire state. It's such a unique atmosphere there and such an exciting place."
What Monty loved the most was the personal relationship between players and fans.
"The great thing about Madison is the community gets involved in the athletics and they really get involved with the individual players," he said. "They learn about each player, and that makes it much more fun for the spectators and the players."
Four years after he first walked onto the Wisconsin campus, Monty departed Madison as one of the best defensive players ever to wear the Badgers uniform. He started his final 36 games with the Badgers, a streak that began his freshman season. As a sophomore he recorded a team-best 131 tackles. As a junior he registered a team-high 137. As a senior he amassed a whopping 178. In fact, he joined Jim Melka (1989-1992) as the only players to lead the school in tackles three consecutive seasons.
His career total of 451 tackles is the most in Wisconsin history.
But you want to know what Monty remembers most from his illustrious career? His greatest Badgers memory taught him a lesson he still applies to his NFL career: Enjoy and appreciate everything.
Monty wishes he could have his freshman season back, not because he didn't work hard in the weight room or deliver 100-percent effort on the practice field. Obviously, his collegiate career shows that he didn't reach his goals by taking plays off. No, Monty believes his only downfall at Wisconsin was when, as a freshman, he didn't realize how difficult it was for his team to reach the Rose Bowl.
In Big Ten circles (before the BCS) the Rose Bowl was the Super Bowl of college football. The "Grand-Daddy of Them All" was exactly that. It took Monty a little while to learn that.
The Badgers won the Big Ten Conference in the 1993 season, thus earning a trip to the Rose Bowl in '94. The Badgers beat UCLA 21-16, and Monty, as a freshman, could place that Rose Bowl ring on his finger. Even though he hadn't risen to the level he'd play at his final three seasons with the Badgers, Monty figured his team would make annual trips to Pasadena.
Monty, and the Badgers, would never return.
"The sad thing is, it was a great experience," Monty said. "But the thing that troubles me a little bit about it now is that it was my freshman year. I thought we'd get back there every year. I don't think I appreciated it like I would have if it was my senior year."
It was a lesson well learned. After having his first two NFL seasons cut short because of knee injuries, Monty played an entire season in 1999 and was a member of the NFC Champion Giants last season, when they dismantled the Vikings on a chilly January Sunday afternoon.
In just his fourth NFL season, Monty was going to the Super Bowl. Remembering his lesson learned from the Rose Bowl, Monty cherished every moment — win or lose.
"I enjoyed every minute of it," he said. "You realize it's so difficult to get there. You realize that you never know if you're going to get back." VU
OFFSEASON RESIDENCE: Fort Lee, N.J.
PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Returning from ACL injury during his rookie year.
TOUGHEST PLAYER EVER FACED: Tennessee RB Eddie George
FIRST CAR: 1978 Studebaker Hawk
FAVORITE CAR: BMW M-5
CURRENT VEHICLE: BMW 740
HOBBIES: Downhill skiing, snowboarding, fly fishing
FAVORITE ACTOR: Robert DeNiro
FAVORITE MOVIE: Snatch
FAVORITE TV SHOW: Friends
EARLY FOOTBALL MEMORY: Ball boy for Fort Collins High (his dad, Tim, was coach)
MUSICAL TASTE: Enjoys jazz
FIRST JOB: Worked at a sporting goods store
GREATEST SPORTS MEMORY: Walking out for kickoff in the 2001 Super Bowl
SUPERSTITION: Always makes sure NFL logo on his socks goes to the bottom of his shoe
PERSON MOST ADMIRED: His dad, Tim, who won a national championship in 1963 playing for Notre Dame
FAVORITE ATHLETE TO WATCH: Washington Wizards forward Michael Jordan
Monty Appreciates New Opportunity
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