From Couch to Coach

June 28, 2013

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Sitting around the house as a child in Louisiana wasn’t Jerry Montgomery’s idea of a good time, so he turned to sports. He has been involved with football ever since.

Montgomery, a four-year letterman at defensive tackle for the University of Iowa from 1998-2001, returned to the state earlier this week to assist with the LeVar Woods Football Academy (LWFA) in Okoboji. Since leaving the UI, Montgomery has landed collegiate coaching jobs at North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC), Northern Iowa, Wyoming, Michigan, and Indiana. On Feb. 26, he was named defensive line coach at the University of Oklahoma.

“I get to work with a couple former Hawks in (co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Jay) Norvell, (head coach) Bob (Stoops) and (associate head coach and defensive coordinator) Mike Stoops,” Montgomery said.

As a 6-foot-3 seventh-grader, basketball was Montgomery’s first love. When his frame took on 300 pounds, football became a more logical alternative. College coaches kept in touch while Montgomery shuffled from Louisiana to Utah to Nevada. He committed to Southern California before a chance meeting with then UI head football coach Hayden Fry in the clubhouse of a golf course in Mesquite, Nev.

“My boss introduced me to Hayden and his wife,” Montgomery recalls. “We sat down and visited and I loved the vibe I got from him. He seemed like a great person and a player’s coach.”

After an official visit to Iowa City, Montgomery became a Hawkeye.

“Playing in front of all those Iowa fans all those games was unbelievable,” Montgomery said. “I don’t think there was a game I played that wasn’t sold out in my four years there.”

In 1998, the Hawkeyes finished 3-8. Fry retired and was replaced as head coach by Kirk Ferentz. After going 1-10 and 3-9 in 1999 and 2000, Iowa capped a six-win regular season in 2001 with a 19-16 victory over Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl.

Montgomery didn’t see action the first three games of his first season as a Hawkeye, but the redshirt was pulled at Illinois in the Big Ten Conference opener. He compiled 10 tackles as a freshman, 49 as a sophomore, 49 as a junior, and 27 as a senior. Montgomery had 20 tackles for loss and five sacks.

Following the Alamo Bowl, Montgomery went to training camp with the New Orleans Saints; he also worked out for the Buffalo Bills. In 2002, he served as a student assistant for the Hawkeyes, and from 2003-04 he helped the Iowa City West football program. The following season Montgomery became defensive coordinator at NIACC, and he has remained involved with the collegiate game.

From June 24-25, Montgomery stepped out of his norm of working with college student-athletes to lend a hand with elementary, junior high, and high school student-athletes at the LWFA.

“At the end of the day, there was somebody or somebodies that affected my life and they were all coaches,” he said. “It’s nice when we can come out here and give back to the community and give these kids some life skills and some things they can take beyond football:

“Some things they can take into their season to help them become better football players: That’s what it’s all about. We wouldn’t have jobs at universities if it wasn’t for the kids.”

Montgomery played in the Arena Football League for Chicago, Colorado, and Las Vegas from 2003-05. His playing days are done, but there is plenty of coaching left in the 33-year-old.

Sports still keep Montgomery out of the house.