He reminded me of a young Julius Peppers. I remember watching Sam Montgomery play last year in the LSU Tigers' highly anticipated regular-season matchup against Alabama, and how the Crimson Tide's so-called great offensive line had no answer for this kid.
Montgomery set a career high with two sacks and tied his career best with six total tackles in that football game. He looked exactly like a young stud who was ready to make a big name for himself throughout the college football world.
Obviously, I was not alone in that assessment.
Montgomery went on to finish the 2011 season with a team-best nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss from the defensive end position. Those outstanding marks would rank third and seventh respectively in the defensive-minded SEC conference.
The 6'4", 245-pound sophomore would close out the regular season with another dominant performance against Georgia in the SEC title game, and then the accolades would begin to pile up.
Montgomery was honored as a first-team All-SEC performer by both the Associated Press and coaches. Even more impressive, he was named a first-team All-American by FWAA and FOXSportsNext.com, a second-team All-American by Sports Illustrated and a third-team All-American by the Associated Press and Rivals.com. In addition to all that, he was also named a Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year finalist.
So, we ask, after all those accolades in just his sophomore season, do you think this kid has a bit of hype surrounding him entering the 2012 college football year?
That right there may be the understatement of the year, but it seems like Sam Montgomery has what it takes to deal with this hype, because it's been surrounding him his entire life.
Montgomery was a very highly touted prospect out of Greenwood High School in South Carolina. The 2009 defensive end prospect was the No. 6-ranked DE in the nation and the No. 5 overall player in the state of South Carolina his senior season, according to Rivals.com.
However, to truly understand what type of hype was surrounding this kid heading into college, just take a look at his offer sheet. Included on the list was, of course, LSU as well as Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and USC.
Every one of those schools wanted to get its hands on this highly touted prospect, but, obviously, in the end Montgomery sided with Les Miles and the Tigers, and it has been a perfect fit up to this point.
Heading into the 2012 season, Montgomery will undoubtedly face as much—if not more—hype than he did heading into college. Several college football publications have already tagged him as a preseason All-American, while many of those same publications also list him as a guaranteed first-round draft selection in the 2013 NFL draft. This, of course, coming after just one full season spent as a starter.
However, Montgomery has been here before. He knows what it's like to be showered with such heavy expectations. He knows what it's like to be looked at as one of the best players in the country at his position.
And really, up to this point, is there any doubt he will handle this differently than he has throughout all his life?
I sure don't think so.
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