The 2017 season was a struggle for the Cal Poly football team. But for Ashland High grad Mason Montgomery, his first chance to be a starter at the four-year college level was something that he had been hoping for since his early teen years.
“Last season playing college football was pretty wild,” Montgomery said by phone from San Luis Obispo on Tuesday night. “The season wasn’t ideal, but the team had a lot of good guys and I’m happy with where I ended up. I’m content with things and obviously wish we had a better year, but I’m happy with it.”
Opposing defenses saw Montgomery on a frequent basis this past fall — and it wasn’t just because of his long, flowing blonde hair flying out of the back of his helmet.
Montgomery made the most of his one season as a starter at inside linebacker for the Mustangs after playing almost exclusively on special teams as a junior.
Even though his team finished with a 1-10 record, Montgomery only racked up tackle, after tackle, after tackle, leading Cal Poly with 92 tackles and 8.4 tackles a game, a total that ranked ninth in all of the Big Sky Conference.
For somebody who owns Ashland High’s career record for tackles and was second amongst California junior college players in tackles in 2015 while playing at Butte College, it was just going right along with what he’s done before.
“Individually, I’m pretty happy, but I always wish things went better,” Montgomery said. “Midway through the season, one of our linebackers got a knee injury and I had to switch spots on the inside, so that was a little tough to deal with because I like playing on the other side. But I think our defense played a lot better than the record shows. I felt like I progressed over the years, and that’s big.”
Now, Montgomery is doing everything he an to try and extend his football career beyond Cal Poly.
Montgomery was one of 11 Cal Poly seniors to take part in a March 25 pro day that had its fair share of NFL scouts in attendance.
While he was able to put up an impressive 29 reps of 225 pounds with his bench press, Montgomery was limited by “a slight hamstring strain” that he suffered a week earlier, preventing him from doing just about all of the runniing and speed drills.
“It’s hard going into something like that — especially being limited like I was,” Montgomery said of his pro day experience. “I wanted to see what I could do compared to guys that I saw at the combine (this year) or guys I paid attention to at the combine while I was growing up. I wish I could have done the other tests to see where I stack up. My expectations were just to see where I stood compared to the guys I’ve been paying attention to.”
Even though no serious discussions have come out of Cal Poly’s pro day — “I don’t know about NFL opportunities yet,” he said — the desite to continue his football career is there.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the NFL, Canadian Football League or somewhere over in Europe, Montgomery is quick to say “I want to try and continue my career as long as I can.”
When Montgomery looks at what football has already enabled him to do, it’s hard to suddenly say goodbye to it.
“I think (potentially playing in Europe) would be another chance for the sport to give me an opportunity,” Montgomery said. “I wouldn’t have gotten here without it. I got school paid for, and getting a scholarship is something that I always wanted. (Playing professionally) would be another opportunity for the sport to take me somewhere and be a conduit for me.
“Playing college sports and being a college athlete, the thing I’m most thankful for is the self-growth. Being in Chico (while attending Butte) for two years and making friends there, being able to come down here for two years and making more friends and more connections, I wouldn’t be here without that opportunity to play football.”
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.