5 Minutes with… Joe Montana
May 3, 2013 – The July Issue of Yankees Magazine will feature a special “5 Minutes with…” Q&A interview.
On April 26, I conducted a lengthy interview with Joe Montana and Yankees chief photographer Ariele Goldman Hecht captured several unique portraits of the legendary quarterback for the piece. The interview and subsequent photo shoot took place at The New York Palace hotel during Montana’s recent New York getaway.
I asked Montana about being a part of the group of elite quarterbacks from Western Pennsylvania, which includes Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly.
“It’s a great group to be a part of,” Montana said. “I didn’t think I was going to be playing football for a living because basketball was what I felt I had the best chance at. But it’s funny how things changed, and to end up being included with those guys is a great honor.”
A few minutes later, Montana, who was one of seven freshman quarterbacks on the University of Notre Dame’s 1974 roster, discussed his first season in South Bend.
“I was very persistent, and I knew that if I kept working hard, I would catch on,” Montana said. “I really had to stay after it because I didn’t do well at first. I was overwhelmed by the ridiculous size of the football team. Some of the other quarterbacks got moved to other positions, but the coaches knew I couldn’t play anywhere else because I was too skinny.”
When we began to discuss Montana’s professional career, the long-time San Francisco 49er spoke to me about the closing moments of Super Bowl XXIII, in which he orchestrated a game-winning drive.
“I had been screaming at the top of my lungs in the huddle, and I didn’t eat a lot that day,” said Montana, who won four Super Bowls and was named the MVP in three of those games. “I was probably a little famished by the end of the game. About half way through the drive, I dropped back, and everything looked fuzzy for me. I didn’t want to throw an interception, so I just threw the ball out of bounds. The next thing I knew, I was hyperventilating. I guess the excitement of the moment, along with all of those other factors, just got to me. When I look back on it now, it’s funny.”
Finally, I asked the Hall of Fame quarterback for his thoughts on two Yankees legends — Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
“The biggest thing in sports is being consistent,” Montana said. “When you start to get successful, you have to remain consistent for a long time to become one of the great players in history. When I think about Mariano and Derek, the first thing that comes to my mind is how consistent they’ve been. I’ve always been amazed by Derek because he goes out there game in and game out and plays at such a high level every day. What he’s been able to do is mind-boggling to me.”
After the interview, I gave Montana a baseball that I had previously asked Rivera to sign for him. On the baseball, the greatest closer of all-time included a classy note (see photo below), and Montana beamed with pride when he read it.
–Alfred Santasiere III