With a quarterback depth chart six men deep and only four quarterbacks slated to get reps during spring practice, the writing was all but on the wall that rising senior quarterback Nate Montana was never going to see the field again for the Irish.
And now news comes from the Missoulian that Nate’s father, Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, spent Tuesday visiting with Montana Grizzlies’ football coach Robin Pflugrad, leading many to believe that Nate’s next stop could be D-IAA powerhouse Montana, where he could enroll as soon as Friday, making him eligible for the Grizzlies’ spring practice. If that’s the case, Kelly’s logjam at quarterback — and on the 85-man scholarship limit — could be cleared up by the end of the week, as the former walk-on signal caller spent last season on scholarship.
When Kelly arrived in South Bend, his depth chart at quarterback was down to only Dayne Crist as a scholarship quarterback, with Tommy Rees still being recruited to the Irish and slated to enroll early. Putting Montana on scholarship, especially after a solid performance in a vanilla Blue-Gold game made sense from a logistics perspective, allowing Montana to spend a full allotment of time with the team and prepare to be the next man in if anything were to happen to Crist. The Irish found out early what life would be like with Montana at the helm, when the junior quarterback was pressed into action after Crist was injured early against Michigan and Nate completed 8 of 17 throws with one interception before Crist returned for the second half.
The idea of Montana leaving is almost bittersweet for some Irish fans, if only because it kills the hope that Joe’s son could add a brick to the incredible legacy his father left behind. But if you were looking for clues as to what quarterback was most likely to seek other opportunities, Montana’s name should have been at the top of the list. After walking on in 2008, Montana left the Irish program for Pasadena City College, hoping that playing time at a junior college would kick start his development as a football player after largely watching throughout his career. (Montana only threw 19 passes as a senior in high school at powerhouse California high school De La Salle.)
We’ll likely find something out soon regarding Montana’s fate, but if this is it for Nate, it’s completely logical. You’ve only got so many years to be a college quarterback, and for a guy like Nate, it likely won’t happen at Notre Dame, even if the stars had seemed to align. Montana’s a perfect program for a guy like him, with a starting spot opening up and a recruiting class shy a signal caller. (Plus, I imagine he’ll still have fans among those reporters looking for some fancy wordplay opportunities.)