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Montana, Joe

Joe Montana

1956-

American football player

One of the most successful quarterbacks in National Football League (NFL) history, Joe Montana led the San Francisco 49ers to victory in four Super Bowls, including back-to-back wins in 1989 and 1990. The rise of the 49ers to football dominance during the 1980s was due in large measure to Montana's brilliance as a quarterback and team leader. Throughout his sixteen-year career in the NFL, Montana picked up Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors twice for his efforts in the regular season and three times for his Super Bowl exploits. Montana's skills as a quarterback won him the respect of both his teammates and the players of opposing teams. Of Montana, Chris Collinsworth, former wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, said: "Joe Montana is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. Joe Montana is not human." Making his accomplishments all the more impressive is the fact that Montana came out of nowhere to make football history. When he entered the NFL draft in 1979, he was not considered a leading prospect and, in fact, was not drafted by the 49ers until late in the third round, the 82nd player to be selected overall. Incredibly, Montana

very nearly didn't get into football at all. While still a senior in high school, he almost accepted a basketball scholarship to North Carolina State University but in the end was persuaded to play football for Notre Dame instead.

Born in New Eagle, Pennsylvania

He was born Joseph C. Montana Jr. in New Eagle, Pennsylvania, on June 11, 1956. The only child of Joseph C. and Theresa M. Montana, he was raised in the football stronghold of western Pennsylvania, which is also home to steel mills and soft coal mines. This same region has provided professional football with some of its most legendary players, including George Blanda, Johnny Lujack, Dan Marino, Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath , Chuck Fusina, and Terry Hanratty. While still an infant, Montana showed signs of his budding athleticism. "He used to wreck his crib by standing up and rocking," his mother Theresa told Sports Illustrated. "Then he'd climb up on the side and jump to our bed. You'd hear a thump in the middle of the night and know he hit the bed and went on the floor." His father, who told Sports Illustrated that as a child he'd never had anyone to take him to the backyard for a game of catch. "Maybe that's why I got Joe started in sports. Once he got started, he was always waiting at the door with a ball when I came home from work." Montana's father tried to instill in him a basic grounding in the fundamentals of football and worked with him on techniques.

A shy child with strangers, Montana had a few friends as a child, but his fondest memories are of playing backyard ball with his dad. At the age of eight, he got into peewee football when his father listed his age as nine on the application form. But his love of sports was not limited to football. In the spring, he pitched for a local Little League team, and in the winter came his favorite game, basketball. His father started a local basketball team that practiced and played in the local armory and toured the region to compete in tournaments. So passionate was Montana about basketball that as a senior in high school, he almost accepted a basketball scholarship to North Carolina State University on the promise that strings would be pulled so that he could play both basketball and football. Eventually, Montana bowed to his region's preoccupation with football and accepted a scholarship to play the game at Notre Dame University, which his childhood idol, Terry Hanratty, had attended.

A Small Fish in a Big Pond at Notre Dame

When Montana arrived at Notre Dame, he found that his status as a high school hotshot counted for little amid the wealth of gridiron talent assembled in South Bend. During Montana's years with the Fighting Irish, a total of forty-six Notre Dame players were drafted into the NFL. Montana saw no varsity action at all his first year at Notre Dame and got only minimal playing time in freshman games. Late in his sophomore season, he managed to pull out two games in the fourth quarter. He then repeated the feat in his junior year, helping power Notre Dame's drive to the national college championship of 1977. Still, he bristled at coach Dan Devine's seeming reluctance to play him more often.

Chronology

1956 Born June 11 in New Eagle, Pennsylvania
1974 Graduates from Ringgold High School in Monongahela, Pennsylvania
1975 Marries high school sweetheart Kim Moses (later divorced)
1978 Earns bachelor's degree in marketing from Notre Dame University
1979 Selected by San Francisco 49ers in NFL draft
1981 Marries flight attendant Cass Castillo (divorced in 1983)
1984 Marries former model Jennifer Wallace
1993 Traded by 49ers to Kansas City Chiefs
1995 Retires from professional football on April 18

The NFL showed little interest in Montana before his senior year, which proved to be his breakthrough year. In two key gamesagainst Pittsburgh and Southern Californiahe engineered almost miraculous fourth-quarter rallies to erase significant deficits. The Fighting Irish finished the season with a record of 8-3, winning them an invitation to face off against the University of Houston in the Cotton Bowl. This proved to be the greatest game of Montana's college career. With Notre Dame trailing Houston 34-12 at the midpoint of the fourth quarter, Montana pulled off one of his most amazing comebacks ever. In roughly seven and a half minutes, Notre Dame erased the deficit and won the game, 35-34, thanks to a Montana touchdown pass with two seconds left on the clock.

Picked by 49ers in Third Round of Draft

Despite his heroic comeback in the Cotton Bowl, Montana was not considered a particularly hot prospect going into the NFL draft of 1979. Not until the third round was he drafted by San Francisco 49ers, the 82nd player to be selected overall. During his rookie season in San Francisco, he spent most of his time on the bench absorbing lessons in technique from veteran quarterback Steve DeBerg. The 49ers ended the regular season with a dismal record of 2-14. In 1980, he split quarterbacking duties with DeBerg, but Montana clearly outshone the veteran, throwing for 1,795 yards and fifteen touchdowns and completing sixty-five percent of his passesthe best in the NFL. Coach Bill Walsh rewarded Montana by naming him starting quarterback for the 1981 season, which turned out to be the best in 49ers' history up to that point. San Francisco finished the regular season with a 13-3 record and went on to win the National Football Conference championship, 28-27, against the Dallas Cowboys. In the Super Bowl, playing against the Cincinnati Bengals, Montana completed fourteen of twenty-two passes for 157 yards to lead the 49ers to a 26-21 victory. For his contribution, Montana received the first of his three Super Bowl MVP trophies.

The 1982 season was cut short by a players' strike, and the 49ers missed the playoffs, but the team bounced back in 1983 with a record of 10-6. Montana threw for 3,910 yards and 26 touchdowns during the regular season. In the post-season, San Francisco advanced to the NFC championship game, which it lost to the Washington Redskins, 24-21 despite another fourth-quarter rally led by Montana. Montana had tied up the game, 21-21, with three fourth-quarter touchdown passes but lost when Redskins player Mark Mosley kicked a 25-yard field goal in the final moments of the game. The 49ers enjoyed one of their best seasons ever in 1984, losing only one game for a record of 15-1. Montana during the regular season threw for 3,630 yards and 28 touchdowns, completing sixty-five percent of his passes. Facing the Chicago Bears in the NFC championship game, San Francisco rolled to an easy victory of 23-0. Almost as much of a runaway was the 49ers' 38-16 Super Bowl win over the Miami Dolphins. Montana earned his second Super Bowl MVP Trophy by throwing for 331 yards (a Super Bowl record at the time) and two touchdowns. He rushed for another touchdown.

Career Statistics

Yr Team GP ATT COM YDS COM% Y/A TD INT
KAN: Kansas City Chiefs; SFO: San Francisco 49ers.
1979 SFO 16 23 13 96 56.5 4.2 1 0
1980 SFO 15 273 176 1795 64.5 6.6 15 2
1981 SFO 16 488 311 3565 63.7 7.3 19 2
1982 SFO 9 346 213 2613 61.6 7.6 17 11
1983 SFO 16 515 332 3910 64.5 7.6 26 12
1984 SFO 16 432 279 3630 64.6 8.4 28 10
1985 SFO 15 494 303 3653 61.3 7.4 27 13
1986 SFO 8 307 191 2236 62.2 7.3 8 9
1987 SFO 13 398 266 3054 66.8 7.7 31 13
1988 SFO 14 397 238 2981 59.9 7.5 18 10
1989 SFO 13 386 271 3521 70.2 9.1 26 8
1990 SFO 15 520 321 3944 61.7 7.6 26 16
1992 SFO 1 21 15 126 71.4 6.0 2 0
1993 KAN 11 298 181 2144 60.7 7.2 13 7
1994 KAN 14 493 299 3283 60.6 6.7 16 9
TOTAL 192 5391 3409 40551 63.2 7.5 273 139

Bounces Back from Back Injury

In 1985 Montana turned in another brilliant performance, throwing for 3,653 yards and twenty-seven touchdowns, but it wasn't enough to return the 49ers to the Super Bowl. In the first round of the playoffs, San Francisco was knocked out of the competition by the New York Giants, 17-3. The beginning of the 1986 season was particularly ominous for Montana, who suffered a severe back injury that doctors at first feared might end his career. He confounded the medical professionals by returning to the game within two months. The 49ers went on to win the NFC Western Division title but fell again to the New York Giants in the first round of the playoffs, 49-3. Labor troubles once again intervened in 1987, cutting the regular season to fifteen games, of which Montana played in thirteen. The quarterback, however, managed to throw for 3,054 yards and a career-high thirty-one touchdowns. He also set an NFL record by completing twenty-two consecutive passes. San Francisco once again won the NFC Western Division title but fell in the first round of the playoffs, this time at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings.

As 49ers coach Walsh began giving more playing time to Steve Young during the 1988 season, rumors began to circulate that Montana might be traded. He later told the Boston Globe : "I've never doubted myself, but sometimes you wonder a little." Montana resolved to do whatever it took to hang on to his job as starting quarterback. In the end, he kept his job and led the 49ers to still another Super Bowl game after blow-out wins against the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears in the playoffs. In January 1989, the 49ers once again faced off against the Bengals in the Super Bowl. Of his third trip to the Super Bowl, Montana told the San Jose Mercury News : "This trip to the Super Bowl is more gratifying than the others because the road has been harder." In classic Montana form, the quarterback came to the rescue in the final minutes of the game to lead San Francisco to a 20-16 victory over the Bengals.

Siefert Takes Over as 49ers' Coach

After the retirement of coach Walsh in early 1989, coaching duties were turned over to defensive coach George Siefert. It was a good year for both Montana and the 49ers. Montana completed 70.2 percent of his passes

for 3,521 yards and twenty-six touchdowns, helping to power San Francisco into the playoffs once again. The 49ers handily disposed of their three playoff opponents with a combined score of 126-26 to win another trip to the Super Bowl. Montana, who led his team to a landslide 55-10 victory over the Broncos with a record five touchdowns, received his third Super Bowl MVP Trophy. Hoping to win their third Super Bowl in as many years, San Francisco compiled a sterling record of 14-2 during the regular season in 1990. Montana provided plenty of help, throwing for a career-high 3,944 yards and twenty-six touchdowns. With nine minutes to go in the NFC championship game, the 49ers were leading the Giants by a score of 13-9 when Montana broke his finger. Young took over the ball, performing well, but a fumble by running back Roger Craig gave the Giants the break they needed to win the game, 15-13.

Related Biography: Coach Dan Devine

Joe Montana didn't always see eye to eye with coach Dan Devine during their years together at Notre Dame, but in the years before Devine's death in 2002 the two had established an uneasy peace. For his part, Devine made it clear that he thought Montana was the greatest quarterback ever to play the game. Montana, however, still harbored a degree of resentment toward Devine for what he believes was the coach's failure to give him his fair share of playing time. One thing is clear. Despite any lingering hard feelings, the two proved a powerful combination that fueled Notre Dame's drive to the national college championship in 1977 and a memorable Cotton Bowl victory over the University of Houston in 1979.

Devine was born in Augusta, Wisconsin, on December 23, 1924. He earned a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Minnesota at Duluth in 1948 and a master's degree in guidance counseling from the University of Michigan. He began his football coaching career at Arizona State University in 1955, where he compiled a record of 27-3-1 over three seasons. He next moved on to the University of Missouri, where he coached for thirteen seasons, compiling a record of 93-37-7 and winning for his team six bowl appearances and two Big Eight championships. He jumped to pro ball in 1971, taking over the reins at Green Bay. Although he coached the Packers to a NFC Central Division championship in 1972, his other three seasons with the team was disappointing, and fans turned against Devine.

In 1975 Devine replaced legendary Notre Dame coach Ara Paraseghian and over five seasons at the helm of the Fighting Irish compiled a record of 53-16-1. The brightest moments came in 1977, when Notre Dame won the national college championship, and in a brilliant come-from-behind victory against Houston in the Cotton Bowl. Montana figured prominently in both those victories.

Devine left coaching in 1980 and returned to Arizona State as executive director of the Sun Angel Foundation, a fund-raising group. In 1987 he

Montana injured his elbow at the 49ers' 1991 training camp and missed all but one game of the 1991 and 1992 seasons. Although he performed well in the final game of the 1992 regular season, it was apparent that the job of starting quarterback had passed to Young. In April 1993 Montana asked to be traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. In his first year, he proved a welcome addition to the Chiefs, which had won only one playoff game since 1970. Despite missing at least part of six games because of a variety of injuries, Montana managed to throw for 2,144 yards and thirteen touchdowns, powering the Chiefs to a season record of 11-5. They won their first and second playoff games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Houston Oilers, respectively, but fell to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC championship game. With Montana's help, Kansas City made it into the playoffs again in 1994 but lost to the Dolphins in the first round. Although it had been an excellent season for Montana, who threw for 3,283 yards and twenty-two touchdowns, he was increasingly troubled by injuries, particularly to his knees. On April 18, 1995, he announced his retirement from professional football.

A master of the come-from-behind victory, Montana will be forever remembered as one of the great quarterbacks of all time. The Pennsylvania native won the NFL's passing title in both 1987 and 1989 and topped the NFC in passing five times (1981, 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1989). In an incredible thirty-nine games, Montana passed for 300 yards or more. He also holds the career playoff records for attempts, completions, touchdowns, and yards gained passing. In 2000 he was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Looking back on his career, Montana told the Detroit Free Press : "I must admit that I've been very fortunate. It's been like living a dream for me. The fortunate thing for me is that allthat became a reality."

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: Joe Montana, c/o IMG New York, 825 7th Ave., New York, NY 10019. Fax: (212)246-1596. Phone: (212)774-6735.

SELECTED WRITINGS BY MONTANA:

(With Bob Raissman) Audibles: My Life in Football, Morrow, 1986.

(With Alan Steinberg) Cool under Fire, Little Brown, 1990.

(With Dick Schaap) Montana, Turner, 1995.

Awards and Accomplishments

1977 Helped lead Notre Dame to national college championship
1981, 1983-85, 1987, 1989, 1993 Selected to play in Pro Bowl
1982 Led 49ers to Super Bowl victory over Cincinnati Bengals, winning MVP Trophy
1985 Led 49ers to Super Bowl victory over Miami Dolphins, winning MVP Trophy
1989 Led 49ers to Super Bowl victory over Cincinnati Bengals
1989 Named Sporting News Player of the Year and Man of the Year
1989 Named NFL's Most Valuable Player
1990 Led 49ers to Super Bowl victory over Denver Broncos, winning MVP Trophy
1990 Named NFL's Most Valuable Player
1990 Named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year

The Ultimate Winner

So is he the greatest quarterback of all time or not? A large body of players and coaches, including [former 49ers coach Bill] Walsh, votes yes. The ones who say no point to the new era of football, the freer passing lanes, the bump-and-run restrictions, the elimination of head-slapping by defensive linemen. They say that a Johnny Unitas or a Norm Van Brocklin playing in this era would do the same things Montana does. "Yeah, I know. I've heard it," [Montana's high school quarterback coach Jeff] Petrucci says. "How would Joe do in the other era? How would he do against the Steelers in that two-deep zone, when they'd roll their corners up and it was over? Well, in my mind, he'd be the greatest in any era because he's the ultimate winner. Somehow he finds a way to get it done."

Source: Zimmerman, Paul. Sports Illustrated (August 13, 1999).

(With Richard Weiner) Joe Montana's Art and Magic of Quarterbacking, Holt, 1997.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

"Joe Montana." American Decades CD-ROM. Detroit: Gale Group, 1998.

"Joe Montana." Contemporary Authors. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001.

"Joe Montana." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Detroit: Gale Group, 1998.

"Joe Montana." Sports Stars, Series 1-4. UXL, 1994-98.

Periodicals

Zimmerman, Paul. "Born to Be a Quarterback." Sports Illustrated (August 13, 1999).

Zimmerman, Paul. "The Ultimate Winner." Sports Illustrated (August 13, 1999).

Other

"Dan Devine, 1924-2002." SportsEncyclopedia.com. http://www.sportsencyclopedia.com/memorial/irish/devine.html (November 25, 2002).

"Joe Montana: Biography." Pro Football Hall of Fame. http://www.profootballhof.com/players/enshrines/jmontana.cfm (November 25, 2002).

"Joe Montana Joins SportsHabitat.com Inc." Snowboard Network.com. http://www.snowboardnetwork.com/sports/joe_Montana_joins_sportshabitat.htm (November 2, 2002).

"Joe Montana, Quarterback." Pro-Football-Reference.com. http://www.football-reference.com/players/MontJo01.htm (November 2, 2002).

Sketch by Don Amerman

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Joe Montana

Joe Montana

Joe Montana (born 1956) has earned a reputation as one of the top quarterbacks in professional football, first rising to fame in the 1980s.

Seventh String

Perhaps it was his only moment of indecision in a career devoted to imposing his will on circumstance. As a high-school senior in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, Joe Montana nearly accepted a basketball scholarship at North Carolina State University. But western Pennsylvania is blue-collar football country, the birthplace of legendary quarterbacks Johnny Lujack, George Blanda, John Unitas, and Joe Namath, and such a tradition ultimately swayed Ringgold High's star quarterback to attend Notre Dame on a football scholarship. However, as a homesick freshman Montana may have had lingering doubts about his decision-making skills when he calculated that he was the Fighting Irish's seventh-string quarterback—barely. Early in his college career Montana made the most of his infrequent appearances: as a sophomore he twice led Notre Dame back from fourth-quarter deficits for improbable wins, including a game against Air Force in which he came off the bench with just twelve minutes remaining to erase the Falcons' twenty-point lead. He inspired two more miraculous rallies as a junior and still two more as a senior. These exploits—what Rick Reilly called the "impossible, get-serious, did-you-hear-what-happened-after-we-left come-back"—quickly became Montana's signature. Still, Montana did not become Notre Dame's first-string quarterback until his senior year; in his very last game, the 1979 Cotton Bowl against Houston, he engineered a rescue of operatic proportions. With his team down 34-12 with only 7:37 left on the clock and suffering from hypothermia so disabling that the trainer spent halftime pumping him full of bouillon to raise his body temperature, Montana completed seven of his last eight passes to win the game 35-34. The game's final points came on a touchdown pass on fourth down with two seconds left—in an ice storm. Yet despite his almost supernatural football instincts and his documented savvy under pressure, Montana was not a highly touted prospect when he entered the 1979 NFL draft.

God or Something

Eighty-one players were selected before the San Francisco 49ers drafted Montana late in the third round. New 49ers coach Bill Walsh ignored the negative scouting reports on his rookie signal caller ("average" arm strength, no touch), and envisioned Montana as the orchestrator of his complex ball-control passing attack: "Joe's ….an excellent spontaneous thinker, a keen-witted athlete with a unique field of vision. And he will not choke. Or rather, if he ever does, you'll know that everyone else has come apart first." Walsh's "system" depended on a nimble quarterback with an accurate arm who could adjust quickly to each defensive sequence as it unfolded. By the 1981 season Montana and the 49ers had become a sophisticated and virtually unstoppable offensive machine, but they met an old nemesis in the National Football Conference championship game, the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys had eliminated the 49ers from their last three playoff appearances, and after six San Francisco turnovers had led to a 6-point Dallas lead, it looked as if history would repeat itself. But Montana drove the 49ers 89 yards in the game's final minutes, and with 51 seconds left connected with flanker Dwight Clark for the winning touchdown on what was one of the most heralded plays of the decade. Known simply as "The Catch," the play began with Montana scrambling desperately to his right with three Cowboys in pursuit. Just before he was about to be thrown for a loss, Montana, throwing off his back foot, lofted a pass that appeared to be uncatchable. He later said he never saw Clark get open but knew his receiver would be sprinting across the back of the endzone as a safety valve on the play. Clark went high to catch the pass, landing just inside the boundary: afterward he marveled at the feat, "It was over my head. I thought, 'Oh, oh, I can't go that high.' Something got me up there. It must have been God or something."

Super Bowl Hero

San Francisco went on to win Super Bowl XVI over the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21, and Montana was named the game's Most Valuable Player (MVP). It was to become a familiar scenario during the decade. The 49ers would win four titles by 1990, including consecutive Super Bowls in 1989 and 1990, and Montana was awarded the MVP trophy on three occasions (his favorite receiver, Jerry Rice, won the award in 1989). Not only did Montana complete almost 70 percent of his passes in those four Super Bowl victories— outdueling the likes of Dan Marino, John Elway, and Boomer Esiason in the those title games—but he never threw an interception in 122 attempts. He drove the 49ers 92 yards in the waning moments of Super Bowl XXIII to beat Cincinnati again, 20-16, finishing the Bengals off with a 10-yard touch-down pass to receiver John Taylor with 34 seconds left. After the game Montana described the final drive and hinted that his mythic composure was susceptible to all-too-human frailties: "It's a blur. I hyperventilated to the point of almost blacking out ….I was yelling so loudly in the huddle that I couldn't breathe. Things got blurrier and blurrier." Montana's performance in the clutch nevertheless left teammates grasping for comparisons; "He's like Lazarus," claimed 49er cornerback Tim McKyer. "You roll back the stone, Joe limps out—and throws for 300 yards." In Super Bowl XXIV Montana came back with an even more impressive performance, shredding the Denver Broncos' defense with five touchdown passes in a 55-10 rout. When he retired in 1995 Montana held NFL playoff records for completions, yards, and touchdowns, as well as single-season (1989) and career records for passing efficiency.

Intangibles

But statistics do not adequately measure Joe Montana's worth as a quarterback. Watching a young Montana practice in the early 1980s, coach Bill Walsh commented, "there was something hypnotic about him. That look when he was dropping back; he was poetic in his movements, almost sensuous, everything so fluid, so much under control." At six feet two inches and rather fragile, Montana was never physically imposing, and his career was twice suspended by major surgery (a back operation in 1986 to widen his spinal canal and elbow surgery that forced him to miss all of the 1992 season). He never appeared to be a brash and demonstrative leader, and by his own account he struggled to articulate how he seemed to perform miracles so effortlessly. Joe Montana simply had the ability to impose a quiet order on a raw and disorderly game. With his leadership there was always time enough.

Further Reading

Appleman, Marc, Joe Montana (1991).

Montana, Joe and Richard Weiner, Joe Montana's Art and Magic of Quarterbacking (1997).

Montana, Joe, Montana (1995).

Montana, Joe and Alan Steinberg, Cool Under Fire (1990).

Telander, Rick, "Joe Montana," Sports Illustrated, 81 (19 September 1994): 106-107;

Weiner, Paul, Joe Montana: Football Legends (1995).

Zimmerman, Paul, "Born to Be a Quarterback (Part I of II),"Sports Illustrated, 73 (6 August 1990): 62-76;

Zimmerman, Paul, "The Ultimate Winner (Part II of II)," Sports Illustrated, 73 (13 August 1990): 72-88. □

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Montana, Joe

Joe Montana

Born: June 11, 1956
New Eagle, Pennsylvania

American football player

Joe Montana has earned a reputation as one of the top quarterbacks ever to play professional football, first rising to fame in the 1980s.

The quarterback's beginnings

Joseph C. Montana Jr. was born on June 11, 1956, in New Eagle, Pennsylvania. His father, Joe Montana Sr., was a manager with a finance company, and his mother, Theresa, was a secretary with the same company. They lived in Monongahela, Pennsylvania. Joe loved playing sports. Every night as a young boy he would wait for his father to come home so that they could play catch with a football or a baseball, and practice throwing the balls through tire swings for accuracy. The Montanas also had a basketball hoop in their driveway, where Joe would often be seen playing a game with friends or practicing on his skills. He just loved to play sports.

Joe went to the local public schools, and graduated from Ringgold High School. There he was a B-student, a member of the choir, and served as vice president of his class during his senior year. He also was the starting quarterback for the football team from the middle of his junior year on. His abilities attracted the attention of major colleges around the country. In 1974 he was named in Parade Magazine as an All-American quarterback.

Seventh string

Joe Montana nearly accepted a basketball scholarship to North Carolina State University. But western Pennsylvania is known for its love of football, and such a tradition finally swayed Ringgold High's star quarterback to attend the University of Notre Dame in Indiana on a football scholarship. It was a school known for excellence in both sports and academics. Joe knew that he would get a good education as well as a great chance to play football. As a homesick freshman, however, Montana may have had doubts about his decision-making skills when he realized that he was barely holding on as the Fighting Irish's seventh-string quarterback.

Early in his career Montana made the most of his occasional appearances in football games. As a sophomore he twice led Notre Dame back from behind in the fourth-quarter for unlikely wins, including a game against Air Force in which he came off the bench with just twelve minutes remaining to erase the Falcons' twenty-point lead. He inspired two more rallies as a junior and two more still as a senior. He soon was known as Notre Dame's "Comeback Kid." Still, Montana did not become Notre Dame's first-string quarterback until his senior year; and in his last game he again performed a comeback in the fourth quarter during an ice storm to defeat Houston in the last seven minutes. Yet, despite his amazing football instincts and his calmness under pressure, Montana was not a highly promoted prospect when he entered the 1979 National Football League (NFL) draft.

Life as a professional player

Eighty-one players were selected before the San Francisco 49ers drafted Montana late in the third round. New 49ers coach Bill Walsh ignored the negative scouting reports on his rookie quarterback, and envisioned Montana as the leader of his complex ball-control passing attack. Walsh's "system" depended on a quick quarterback with an accurate arm who could adjust quickly to the other team's defensive strategies. By the 1981 season Montana and the 49ers had become a sophisticated and practically unstoppable offensive machine, but they met an old enemy in the National Football Conference championship game, the Dallas Cowboys. Montana again led a team from behind to win this game in the last seconds.

Super Bowl hero

San Francisco went on to win Super Bowl XVI over the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21. Montana was named the game's Most Valuable Player (MVP). It was to become a familiar scenario during the decade. The 49ers would win four titles by 1990, including consecutive Super Bowls in 1989 and 1990, and Montana was awarded the MVP trophy in three of those championship games. Not only did Montana complete almost 70 percent of his passes in those four Super Bowl victories, but he also never threw an interception in 122 attempts. He drove the 49ers 92 yards in the last few moments of Super Bowl XXIII to beat Cincinnati again, 20-16. In Super Bowl XXIV Montana came back with an even more impressive performance, completing five touchdown passes in a 55-10 victory over the Denver Broncos. When he retired in 1995, Montana held NFL playoff records for completions, yards, and touchdowns, as well as single-season (1989) and career records for passing efficiency.

Life after football

Joe Montana was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on July 29, 2000. He is now involved in sports of a different kind. He raises horses with his family in Northern California. He and his children compete as riders of the horses they raise. But no matter where he goes, Joe Montana will always be remembered as one of professional football's greatest players.

For More Information

Appleman, Marc. Joe Montana. Boston: Little, Brown, 1991.

Montana, Joe, and Richard Weiner. Joe Montana's Art and Magic of Quarterbacking. New York: Henry Holt, 1997.

Montana, Joe. Montana. Atlanta: Turner Publishing, 1995.

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Montana, Joe

Joe Montana (Joseph Clifford Montana) (mŏntăn´ə), 1956–, American football player, b. New Eagle, Pa. After playing at Notre Dame Univ., he starred (1979–93) for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League, before moving (1993–95) to the Kansas City Chiefs. Montana came to be regarded as the greatest quarterback in NFL history and was known especially for his collaboration with such receivers as Jerry Rice. He had at the time of his retirement the second highest pass completion rate on record (63.2%); his records included 5 consecutive games with over 300 yards passing (1982) and 22 consecutive completed passes (1987). Noted for driving his team to fourth-quarter come-from-behind wins, he led San Francisco to four NFL championships and was the most valuable player in the Super Bowls of 1982, 1985, and 1990. In 1989 and 1990 he was the NFL's most valuable player.

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"Montana, Joe." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Montana, Joe." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/montana-joe