Joseph Clifford Montana, Jr., (born June 11 1956), nicknamed Joe Cool, is a retired American football player whose professional career in the National Football League (NFL) spanned the late 1970s through the mid-1990s. Montana started his NFL career in 1979 with the San Francisco 49ers, where he played quarterback (QB) for the next 14 seasons. He spent the 1993 and 1994 seasons, his final two years in the NFL, with the Kansas City Chiefs. While a member of the 49ers, Montana started four Super Bowl games and the team won all of them. In 2000, Montana was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In 1989, and again in 1990, the Associated Press (AP), an American news agency, named Montana the NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP), and Sports Illustrated magazine named Montana the 1990 "Sportsman of the Year". Four years earlier, in 1986, Montana won the AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. As a result of his high level of play, Montana appeared in eight Pro Bowls, the NFL's version of an all-star game. Montana had the highest passer rating in the National Football Conference (NFC) five times (1981, 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1989); and, in both 1987 and 1989, Montana had the highest passer rating in the entire NFL.
Noted for his ability to remain calm under pressure, Montana helped his teams to 31 fourth quarter come-from-behind wins. In the closing moments of the 1981 NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XXIII, Montana threw game-winning touchdown passes. The touchdown at the end of the championship game was so memorable that sports journalists, fans, and many others, refer to the play simply as "The Catch". The touchdown in the closing moments of Super Bowl XXIII came at the end of a 92-yard drive.
Because of Montana's excellent career, the 49ers retired the number 16, the jersey number Montana wore while with the team. In 1994, Montana earned a spot on the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team; he is also a member of the honorary NFL 1980s All-Decade Team. In 1999, editors at The Sporting News ranked Montana third on their list of "Football's 100 Greatest Players". Also in 1999, his status among the greatest players of all time was reaffirmed when ESPN named Montana the 25th greatest athlete of the 20th century. In 2006, Sports Illustrated rated him the number one clutch quarterback of all-time.
Born to Joseph and Theresa Montana, Joe Montana expressed an early interest in sports, and it was Montana Sr. who first taught him the game of football. Montana started to play youth football when he was just eight years old, aided in part by his father. Montana Sr. listed his son as a nine-year-old so that Montana could meet the league's minimum age requirement.
During his formative years, Montana took an interest in baseball and basketball, in addition to football. In fact, basketball was Montana's favorite sport as a child. Montana Sr. started a local basketball team that his son played on. The team practiced and played at the local armory and played their games in various regional tournaments.
Montana received his primary education at Waverly Elementary and his secondary education at Finleyville Junior High (Known as Finleyville Middle School) and Ringgold High School.. While at Ringgold, Montana played football, baseball, and basketball. Montana showed potential as a basketball player and helped Ringgold win the 1973 WPIAL Class AAA boy's basketball championship. He was so good that during his senior year, North Carolina State University (NCSU) offered Montana a basketball scholarship.. Although Montana turned down the scholarship, he seriously considered NCSU because of a promise that he could play both basketball and football for the university.
Montana spent his first two years on the high school football team as a backup. Finally, in his junior year, Montana earned the job as the Ringgold Rams starting quarterback. Montana held the role for the final two years of his high school career; after his senior year, Parade named him to their All-American team.
One of Montana's most notable performances during his high school years was during his senior year in a game against Monessen High School. Although Monessen scored a game-tying touchdown in the final moments, Montana's performance garnered attention from college recruiters, particularly those from the University of Notre Dame. In the game, Montana completed 12 passes in 22 attempts, threw for 223 yards, and scored three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. Montana was also an all-state basketball player in Pennsylvania and was offered a basketball scholarship to the University of North Carolina by Dean Smith. However, football was his first love.
Notre Dame eventually offered Montana a scholarship, and he accepted. One contributing factor in Montana's choice of colleges was that Terry Hanratty, his boyhood idol, had attended Notre Dame. In 2006, thirty-two years after Montana had graduated, Ringgold renamed their football stadium "Joe Montana Stadium".
On December 15, 1974, Parseghian resigned due to health problems. The university hired Dan Devine to replace Parseghian. Despite his limited playing time the previous year, Montana performed well during the 1975 spring practice. Devine was so impressed that he later told his wife: "I'm gonna start Joe Montana in the final spring game." When she replied, "Who's Joe Montana?", Devine said: "He's the guy who's going to feed our family for the next few years."
Devine did not feel Montana was ready to be the full-time starter in 1975; however, Montana played a key role in Notre Dame's victory over the University of North Carolina. During the game, which was played in Chapel Hill, Montana came in with 5:11 left to play. At the time, North Carolina led by a score of 14 to six. Montana spent one minute and two seconds of game time on the field. In that time, he had 129 passing yards and Notre Dame won the game 21-14.
Against Air Force, Notre Dame's next opponent, Montana again entered the game in the fourth quarter. Although Air Force led 30-10, Notre Dame won the game 31-30. After the win against North Carolina, Devine said that Moose Krause, the Notre Dame Athletic Director, said that the game was the "greatest comeback I've ever seen." After the game against Air Force, Krause was quoted as saying: \"This one's better than last week.\" In those two games, Montana had demonstrated his ability to perform well in high pressure circumstances. That characteristic would prove valuable, and Montana relied on it throughout his football career.
Before the start of the 1976 season, Montana separated his shoulder. Since he was unable to play, Montana redshirted the season; it is a practice commonly used in NCAA sports that allows the player to maintain four full years of eligibility.
When the 1977 season began, Montana was the third quarterback listed on the team's depth chart, behind Rusty Lisch and Gary Forystek. Notre Dame won their season opener and then lost to the University of Mississippi by a score of 20-13. Montana did not appear in either of those games. In their third game of the season, Notre Dame played Purdue University. Lisch started and was then replaced by Forystek. In one play, Forystek suffered a broken vertebra, a broken clavicle, and a severe concussion; it was the last play of Forystek's sports career. Devine inserted Lisch back into the game before Montana finally had the opportunity to play. Montana entered with approximately 11 minutes remaining and Purdue leading 24-14; he threw for 154 yards and one touchdown, and Notre Dame won the game 31-24.
After the game, Devine made Montana the first quarterback on the depth chart and the team won their remaining nine games. In their final game of the season, Notre Dame defeated the number one ranked University of Texas by a score of 38-10 in the 1978 Cotton Bowl. Notre Dame's record of eleven wins and one loss earned them the NCAA national title; the only title the school won while Devine was coach.
The following year, Montana helped Notre Dame to a come from behind win against the University of Pittsburgh. He almost pulled off a second one against the University of Southern California, Notre Dame's primary rival. Trailing 24-6 in the second half, Montana ignited a furious fourth-quarter rally to put Notre Dame ahead, 25-24 with 45 seconds remaining, only to see the Trojans win, 27-25, on a last-second field goal.
On January 1, 1979, Notre Dame played the University of Houston in that year's Cotton Bowl. Montana's performance in that game is one of the most celebrated of his entire football career; the circumstances of the game have led to it being referred to as the \"Chicken Soup Game\".
Montana fell ill during the game, but returned during the fourth quarter. Notre Dame ran their last offensive play with two seconds remaining on the game clock. They scored a touchdown and won the game 35 to 34. As a result of the game, Notre Dame went on to produce a promotional film called Seven and a Half Minutes to Destiny. Coach Devine later referred to the piece as a \"Joe Montana film.\"
Despite his performance on the field, Montana was not rated highly by most scouts. At one combine, Montana rated out as six-and-a-half overall with a six in arm strength, used to judge how hard and how far a prospect could throw the ball. By comparison, Jack Thompson of Washington State University rated an eight; the highest grade amongst eligible quarterbacks.
In the 1979 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers selected Montana in the third round with the 82nd overall pick. Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Thompson with the third pick of the first round. Thompson went on to appear in just 51 NFL games in a six-year career. While he was picked well ahead of Montana, he never finished any season in the top ten for any major statistical category.
Although Montana appeared in all 16 regular season games during the 1979 season, he only threw 23 passes. He spent most of the season as the number two player on the San Francisco depth chart behind fellow quarterback Steve DeBerg.
Montana did not become the number one quarterback until midway through the 1980 season.
On December 7, 1980, San Francisco hosted the New Orleans Saints. The Saints, winless at the time, jumped out to a 35-7 lead at Halftime. At the start of the fourth quarter, New Orleans still led by a score of 35-21; but, San Francisco tied the game by the end of regulation play. In overtime, Ray Wersching kicked a field goal to win the game for San Francisco. This marked the first time in Montana's career where his team overcame a fourth quarter deficit to win a game. During his 16 seasons in the NFL, this happened a total of 31 times with Montana at quarterback; 26 of those games were while Montana was with San Francisco.
Though San Francisco finished 1980 with a record of six wins and ten losses, Montana passed for 1,795 yards and 15 touchdown passes against just nine interceptions. He also completed 64.5 percent of his passes, which led the league.
On January 10, 1982, San Francisco faced the Dallas Cowboys at Candlestick Park in the National Football Conference Championship Game. The final quarter was marked by one of the most notable plays in NFL history; and, Larry Schwartz of ESPN.com later defined the 1981 NFC Championship as Montana's signature game.
When San Francisco took possession with 4:54 left in regulation play, Dallas led 27-21; the drive began on San Francisco's 11-yard line. Behind six successful Montana completions and four running plays, San Francisco moved the ball to the Dallas 13-yard line. After one unsuccessful pass and then a seven-yard gain, San Francisco faced third down from the Dallas 6-yard line. Montana took the snap and ran to his right. He then made an off-balance pass toward the back of the end zone, and San Francisco wide receiver Dwight Clark made a leaping catch for the game-tying touchdown. With just 51 seconds left on the game clock, Wersching kicked the extra point and San Francisco won the game 28-27. The catch by Clark was coined simply The Catch; and it put San Francisco into Super Bowl XVI.
San Francisco faced the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XVI. Montana completed 14 of 22 passes for 157 yards with one touchdown. San Francisco won the game 26-21; and, in recognition of his performance, Montana won the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award, which he accomplished two more times before he retired.
Montana had a prolific season in 1982. However, the regular season was shortened to nine games when members of the Player's Association went on strike. Although San Francisco failed to make the playoffs, Montana threw for 2,613 yards and 17 touchdowns during the year. He also set a then NFL record with five consecutive 300 yard passing games.
The next year, Montana threw for 3,910 yards and 26 touchdowns in 16 regular season games. The team ended the regular season with a 10-6 record and finished first in the NFC West. In the divisional playoff game, they faced the Detroit Lions. Yet again, Montana demonstrated his ability to perform well in high-pressure situations. Despite being out played in terms of total yardage, the 49ers trailed by just six points as the game neared its conclusion. However, with 1:23 remaining in regulation, the 49ers offense had the ball at the Lions 14-yard line. Montana completed a touchdown pass to wide receiver Freddie Solomon, and San Francisco took the lead on the ensuing extra-point.
The victory placed the 49ers in the NFC Championship game against the Washington Redskins. As he had done before, Montana asserted himself late in the game. The Redskins led 21-0 at the start of the fourth quarter, but Montana helped lead the 49ers back. Aided by three fourth-quarter Montana touchdown passes, the 49ers tied the game at 21. However, Redskins placekicker Mark Moseley kicked a 25-yard field goal in the waning moments of the game. Despite Montana's efforts, the team lost 24-21.
Montana again had an excellent season and earned his second consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl. In their first two playoff games, the 49ers defeated the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears by a combined score of 44-10. In Super Bowl XIX, the 49ers faced the Dolphins, whose quarterback was Dan Marino.
In the game, Montana threw for three touchdowns and completed 24 of 35 passes. He established the Super Bowl record for most yards passing in a single game (331) and supplemented his passing with 59 yards rushing. The 49ers defeated the Dolphins 38-16 and Montana earned his second Super Bowl MVP award. After the game, 49ers head coach Bill Walsh said: "Joe Montana is the greatest quarterback today, maybe the greatest quarterback of all time."
In 1986, Montana suffered a severe back injury during week two of the season. The injury was so severe that Montana's doctors suggested that Montana retire. On September 15, 1986, the 49ers placed Montana on the injured reserve list; however, he returned to the team on November 6 of that year. Despite the fact that Montana appeared in just eight games, and, though he threw more interceptions than touchdown passes for the only time in his career, the 49ers finished the season with a record of 10-5-1.
In 1987, Montana had 31 touchdown passes, a career high, in just 13 games. In 1987, he also set the NFL record for most consecutive pass attempts without an incomplete pass (22), passed for 3,054 yards, and had a passer rating of 102.1. Though the 49ers finished with the best record in the NFL, they lost in the NFC semi-finals to the Minnesota Vikings.
Prior to the 1987 season, Bill Walsh completed a trade for Steve Young, then a quarterback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Young went on to appear in eight regular season games for the team and finished the year with a passer rating of 120.8.
Young's performance in 1987 was strong enough that by the time the 1988 season began, a controversy was in place as to who should get more playing time at quarterback. Young appeared in 11 games that year and rumors surfaced claiming that Montana might be traded.
Despite the competition for playing time, Montana received most of the playing time during the 1988 season. After a home loss to the Los Angeles Raiders that left the 49ers with a 6-5 record, the 49ers were in danger of missing the playoffs. Montana regained the starting position and led the 49ers to a 10-6 record and the NFC Western Division title.
The 49ers earned a trip to Super Bowl XXIII when they defeated Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears in the playoffs. The 49ers faced the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. Montana threw three first-half touchdowns as the 49ers won 34-9. The victory over the Bears in the NFC Championship game is of particular note. Playing in Chicago, with temperatures plummeting into the single digits and a howling wind blowing across Soldier Field, Montana threw for 288 yards and 3 touchdowns. His first touchdown pass came on a play in which Montana whistled a perfect sideline pass to Jerry Rice on a 3rd down play late in the first quarter, and Rice outran two Bears defenders for a 61-yard score. The Bears were never in the game as the 49ers won 28-3 to advance to Super Bowl XXIII.
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." Then, in Super Bowl XXIII, Montana had one of the best performances of his career. He completed 23 of 36 passes for a Super Bowl record 357 yards and two touchdowns. Despite his great performance, the 49ers found themselves trailing the Cincinnati Bengals 16-13 with only 3:10 left in the game and the ball on their own 8-yard line. But Montana calmly drove them down the field, completing 8 of 9 passes for 87 yards and throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to John Taylor with only 34 seconds left.
1989 proved to be successful for Montana and the 49ers. The team finished the season with an NFL-best 14-2 record, and their two losses were by a total of only five points. Montana threw for 3,521 yards and 26 touchdowns, with only 8 interceptions, giving him what was then the highest single-season passer rating in NFL history, a mark subsequently broken by his 49er teammate Steve Young in 1994. He also rushed for 227 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, and earned the NFL Most Valuable Player Award. In a memorable comeback win in week 4 against the Philadelphia Eagles, Montana threw four touchdown passes in the 4th quarter despite the relentless pass rush from the Eagles defense. He finished with 428 yards passing and five touchdown passes in the victory. The 49ers then cruised through the playoffs, easily crushing the Minnesota Vikings 41-13 and the Los Angeles Rams 30-3. Montana threw for a total of 503 yards and 6 touchdowns in those 2 games, without a single interception. Then, in Super Bowl XXIV, Montana became the first player (and to date, the only player) ever to win Super Bowl MVP honors for a third time, throwing for 297 yards and a then Super Bowl record five touchdowns, while also rushing for 15 yards as the 49ers defeated the Denver Broncos 55-10, the most lopsided score in Super Bowl history.
Injured after getting hit by Leonard Marshall during the NFC Championship Game in January 1991, Montana missed the entire 1991 season and most of the 1992 season with an elbow injury (he did appear in a Monday Night Football game vs. Detroit Lions at the end of the '92 season, and was very effective). However, by this point, teammate Steve Young had replaced him as the starting quarterback.
The Chiefs mailed three jerseys to Montana. One was number 3, his number from Notre Dame. Another was number 19, which he wore in little league and also briefly in training camp of the 1979 season with San Francisco, and the third was number 16, which Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson offered to let Montana wear since the organization had retired it. Montana declined Dawson's offer and wore 19 instead and signed a 3 year $10 million dollar contract.
Montana was injured for part of the 1993 season, but still led the Chiefs in two come-from-behind wins in the 1993 playoffs and reached the AFC Championship Game, where Kansas City lost to the Buffalo Bills. Kansas City has not won a playoff game since 1993. Including their two playoff victories that year, the 1993 Chiefs won 13 games, tying the franchise record for wins in a season. Montana was also selected to his final Pro Bowl at the end of the 1993 season.
Montana returned healthy to the Chiefs in 1994, starting all but 2 games. His highlights included a classic duel with John Elway (which Montana won) on Monday Night Football, and a memorable game in week 2 when Montana played against his old team, the 49ers and their new quarterback, Steve Young. In a much-anticipated match-up, Montana and the Chiefs prevailed and defeated the 49ers 24-17. Montana led his team to a final playoff appearance in 1994. Montana retired at the end of the 1994 season. His replacement with the Chiefs was his former backup in San Francisco, Steve Bono.
On April 18 1995, Montana announced his retirement before a huge crowd at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco. The event was broadcast live on local television, and included speeches from John Madden, Eddie DeBartolo, Jr, and others. Several highlights from Montana's stay with San Francisco were also included as part of the broadcast. Bill Walsh served as the emcee for the event.
For his career with the 49ers, Montana completed 2,929 of 4,600 passes for 35,142 yards with 244 touchdowns and 123 interceptions. He had 35 300-yard passing games including 7 in which he threw for over 400 yards. His career totals: 3,409 completion on 5,391 attempts, 273 touchdowns, 139 interceptions, and 40,551 yards passing. He also rushed for 1,676 yards and 20 touchdowns. When Montana retired, his career passer rating was 92.3, the highest all time; he has since been surpassed by his 49er successor Steve Young (96.8), Indianapolis Colt Peyton Manning (94.8), and two-time league MVP Kurt Warner (94.3). He also has won 100 games faster than any other quarterback until surpassed by Tom Brady in 2008. His number 16 was retired by the 49ers on December 15, 1997 during halftime of the team's game against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football.
Montana holds post-season records for most career touchdown passes (45), and passing yards (5,772) among others. In his four Super Bowls, Montana completed 83 of 122 passes for 1,142 yards and 11 touchdowns, with an impressive zero interceptions, earning him a passer rating of 127.8. Montana led his team to victory in each game, and is the only player ever to win three Super Bowl MVP awards. He played in eight Pro Bowls.
In 1986, doctors diagnosed Montana as having a narrow spinal cavity. He elected to have an operation, which was successful, and was able to return to football and continue his storied career.
Montana resides in Lafayette, CA. He now owns horses and produces wine under the label Montagia.
|1979||San Francisco 49ers||16||23||13||56.5||96||1||0||81.1|
|1980||San Francisco 49ers||15||273||176||64.5||1795||15||9||87.8|
|1981||San Francisco 49ers||16||488||311||63.7||3565||19||12||88.4|
|1982||San Francisco 49ers||9||346||213||61.6||2613||17||11||88.0|
|1983||San Francisco 49ers||16||515||332||64.5||3910||26||12||94.6|
|1984||San Francisco 49ers||16||432||279||64.6||3630||28||10||102.9|
|1985||San Francisco 49ers||15||494||303||61.3||3653||27||13||91.3|
|1986||San Francisco 49ers||8||307||191||62.2||2236||8||9||80.7|
|1987||San Francisco 49ers||13||398||266||66.8||3054||31||13||102.1|
|1988||San Francisco 49ers||14||397||238||59.9||2981||18||10||87.9|
|1989||San Francisco 49ers||13||386||271||70.2||3521||26||8||112.4|
|1990||San Francisco 49ers||15||520||321||61.7||3944||26||16||89.0|
|1991||San Francisco 49ers||0||0||0||--||0||0||--||--|
|1992||San Francisco 49ers||1||21||15||71.4||126||2||0||118.4|
|1993||Kansas City Chiefs||11||298||181||60.7||2144||13||7||87.4|
|1994||Kansas City Chiefs||14||493||299||60.6||3283||16||9||83.6|