The recruiting process for Eden Prairie’s Antonio Montero was not a smooth journey. For the state champion Eagles, Montero played multiple positions and had many roles. Right away that made it hard for coaches to figure out where he was going to fit into their program. Coaches didn’t even agree on whether he would be an offensive or defensive player. On top of that, regardless of where he played – linebacker or fullback – Montero wasn’t going to have the measurables of a typical Division I football player. The early signing period came and went, but Minnesota’s Mr. Football winner kept faith in himself and found a coaching staff and a school that believed in him – and Montero believed in them too.
“The recruiting process was stressful,” Montero admitted. “I had a lot of contradictory thoughts going through my head. I would talk to coaches who showed interest in me but weren’t serious about offering me. There are some mind games that play into it; I didn’t enjoy that aspect of it, but a few great programs took a chance on me, and I am thankful for the teams that offered me.”
Despite his obvious skill on the football field, Montero knew he was behind the eight ball in recruiting.
“It is tough for guys like me who don’t have the prototypical frame that a lot of colleges are looking for, so I got put under the rug in that sense. I am thankful there were some coaches who looked past height, size and forty times and recruited real football players.”
Rice and San Diego State were the two programs who stuck with Montero and separated themselves from the others.
“San Diego State wins a lot of games, they put guys in the NFL and do a lot of things well. I liked their coaches, campus, and city,” NFN’s 15th ranked senior said. “Rice – their academics are top 15 in the country. They have all brand-new coaches, and a lot (of the coaches) are coming from successful programs, so I trust in them.”
Ultimately, factors on and off the field would sway Montero to choose Rice University.
“I clicked with the players at Rice better, and I felt more of a culture of family there. It came down to Rice being such a good university and that I have the opportunity to play early as a linebacker. San Diego State wanted me as a fullback. I would prefer to play linebacker – my heart is at linebacker.”
“Academics are important to me,” Montero continued. “I am considering majoring in economics or sports management. I want to get into professional sports somehow – whether that is in sports management or administration. I think a sports management degree will carry a lot of weight. With Houston having five professional sports teams – internships opportunities will be great.”
Montero has a good idea of where the coaches see him in the Owls’ defense.
“On my official visit, they took me through their vision for the defense. They have me playing kind of a weakside linebacker but also in the middle. It is kind of a hybrid because Rice plays a lot of nickel – Conference USA does a lot of spread offense. I will be working at either a nickel kind of spot or inside linebacker.”
The Rice coaching staff liked what they saw in Montero on the defensive side of the ball.
“The main thing they said is they like how when I tackle the runner goes backward,” Montero explained. “They don’t go forward for that extra yard or to the side. The coaches like how aggressive and physical I am and how versatile I was – running the ball, kicking and my linebacker duties. They want to recruit athletes rather than specific players, so they can move them around if they need to.”
He is not opposed to a red-shirt year but knows the coaches will give him the opportunity if he earns a spot on the opening day roster. In the end that was all Montero needed to continue his football career – an opportunity.