There was a time in Luke Montgomery’s life when he saw himself as a defensive end, or a tight end, or maybe even a basketball player, given his time playing AAU ball with LeBron James’ son Bronny.
Montgomery ultimately emerged as a four-star offensive line prospect. One of the top players in the state of Ohio for 2023, he held offers from all of the major college football programs in America. Montgomery was ranked as one of the nation’s best offensive linemen.
Before he was a two-time First-Team All-State offensive tackle at Findlay High School, however, he was a Second-Team All-State defensive lineman. But he is now a true freshman offensive lineman at Ohio State, and he brings with him all of the skills that made him a viable candidate for many different avenues.
Despite the possibilities of defense or tight end, the path to offensive line eventually made itself clear to Montgomery and his head coach Stefan Adams.
“We have this saying back home with my brother, he’s absolutely hilarious, typically if you start going bald, ‘It’s time to come on home,’ and shave it off,” Adams told Buckeye Huddle. “And I think of that saying because at some point in time it was, ‘Luke, it’s time to come on home.’ Understand offensive line is gonna be your part, your play.
“And I think he knew it as time went by. Every year it became more and more like a need. The crazy part was, he was an absolutely really talented defensive lineman, too. And I would say before it was kind of solidified that he’d be an offensive lineman — which is where most schools were recruiting him at — but there were still a couple of schools that really wanted him at defensive line.”
It Takes More Than Talent
Stefan Adams was hired as Findlay’s head coach in February of 2021. He knew pretty early on that Luke Montgomery was eventually going to be a major college football player.
As a 6-foot-4 and 260-some pound high school sophomore, he stood out both figuratively and literally. While Montgomery’s stature piqued Adams’ interest, it was something else that solidified it.
“Physical stature is one thing, right? But then you see the way he runs, and you see a guy like that, who can run that fast and who was that agile for his size, you knew that was different,” Adams said. “I think one of the things we talk about all the time — you see good kids, you see good players, but then there’s some guys that come along and they’re just different. You know? He had that different part, that elite trait, and for him that was his athletic ability.”
Montgomery’s athletic ability would be put on display routinely during his time at Findlay. Whether it was running up and down the hardwood as a post player, getting after the quarterback as a defensive end, running down the seam as a tight end, or getting into the second level as a left tackle and suddenly deciding to plant the defensive end he had been carrying for the past six yards, he showed the entire catalog.
And that is all well and good. Athleticism, size, and talent are necessities, after all. But the drive to make the most of those necessities is the key to unlocking everything.
“Yeah, exactly. You’re exactly right,” Adams said. “I mean, all those tools that he has and possesses are definitely given in some aspect, but at the same time, what the kid did that always impressed me was he was always working. He was always trying to find ways to get better. It was always, ‘Hey, we don’t lift today.’ ‘Well, I’m gonna lift anyway myself.’ Or ‘Hey, can I get outside and get some extra drill work in?’ Or, ‘Hey, Coach, can you leave the sleds dressed in the wintertime so I can get out and get some work in?’ I don’t think people ever really truly got to see all that he did and all that he was involved in from a workout standpoint, outside of what we had organized.”
The Boat Captain
Early on in Luke Montgomery’s time at Findlay, he was part of a veteran-laden program. As a sophomore, there were seniors everywhere. Adams called them “an alpha male group,” but Montgomery fit in with the veteran leaders early on because they all had the same team-oriented goals.
Montgomery didn’t force the issue, he simply maintained an example that he had set for himself. And like a good leader, he wanted to bring others along with him.
“Phenomenal leader,” Adams said. “Really, what I think was unique and really good to watch the growth of him, being with him from his sophomore year all the way to his senior year where I really think he figured out what his leadership style was, was being a positive leader. Kind of bringing everybody on the boat with him. A guy that would cheer you on when you did the right thing.”
One of the reasons Montgomery committed to Ohio State about a year before he needed to was because he wanted to help lead the charge in recruiting. This fact was “no surprise” to Adams. Montgomery was one of the hardest-working recruiters the Buckeyes have had in recent times. His efforts contributed to a Top 5 recruiting class for Ohio State and head coach Ryan Day.
Just as he wanted to include his Findlay teammates on his ride as a blue-chip prospect, he had the same attitude in recruiting, trying to bring as many talented players as possible with him to Columbus.
“I think watching him hone his leadership style really fell into him being the leader of his recruiting class,” Adams said. “You could just see things were coming together for him. He was a phenomenal, positive leader. He brings everybody on the boat with him. I think sometimes you get a kid like that and because of what they’re involved in and what they have going for themselves, there’s almost like that natural distance between him and everybody else by nature. But it never felt like that with Luke though, because he wanted everybody to experience all the fun things that he was experiencing, you know? And if he could, he’d bring the whole team with him to every event possible.”
Flattening Learning Curves
Luke Montgomery enrolled at Ohio State this winter, which allowed him to get a running start at, well, running. And lifting. Winter conditioning is never easy, but it makes everything else easier.
Montgomery also took part in spring ball for the Buckeyes, where he was put at left tackle. He spent most of his time with the third-string, which isn’t out of the ordinary for a true freshman on the offensive line. There is always a learning curve, and it was no different this time around.
Each time out, however, Montgomery was just a bit better than the time previous.
“I got to go watch him at three practices and a game this spring,” Adams said. “And you would see from the first time I saw him, he had some trouble. He was a work in progress, trying to stay on his feet at the second level, or finishing blocks. Well, at that level, those guys are stronger, are bigger, they’re faster. They’re recruited at the same level you were, and they’re more about getting rid of the offensive player and getting to the ball.”
By the end of spring, however, Montgomery was holding his own. Throughout the month of March and the first part of April, Adams was trading texts back and forth with his former player. They talked about where Montgomery felt he was, and where he needed to be. They also talked about where he could improve and how to do it. They both agreed that the finishing aspect was an area that could use some work. That’s typical for a true freshman battling experienced college players while trying to remember plays, techniques, and everything else flashing in front of and behind their eyes on any given snap.
The progression was apparent, however, especially for those paying attention during Ohio State’s spring game back in April.
“I was watching him run,” Adams said of the spring game. “I think it was a zone scheme, and seeing if he was able to get to the backer, stay on his feet, stay on and keep driving. I watched one time they were on the double team, and he double teamed perfectly. Came off on the backer, maintained his leverage, kept his feet pounding and moving. Kept good balance and was able to finish and allow for a crease for the running backs. So, I mean, those things are things that obviously were glaring very early on, but I was very, very encouraged by his performance.”
The Elite Trait
Luke Montgomery is not your typical left tackle. Ohio State lists him at 6-foot-4 and 298 pounds, which is about two inches shy of the imaginary line of acceptance for left tackles.
If all it took to pass block was height, however, there’d be fewer centers playing basketball. For every action in nature, there is an equal and opposite reaction That isn’t just one of Newton’s Laws of Motion, it is also a requirement for playing on the offensive line.
In other words, a left tackle must be able to keep a defensive end from overpowering him, running around him, or getting past him in any other way that he can. He must be up to the challenge, and then give it right back.
Adams has seen that ability from Montgomery.
“Being at a division one program, there’s an elite trait. And I think the elite trait that he has is his athletic ability,” Adams said. “I would say his movement skills, his ability to want to learn are strengths. I would say he’s a very strong-handed kid. Once he gets hands on you, it’s pretty hard to get off.”
The height is whatever the height is going to be, but without the feet to stay in front of a defender, there’d be no standing regardless. And it’s not like Montgomery was caught off guard when he discovered he wasn’t 6-foot-6.
“Right, and he knows that,” Adams said. “He’s aware of that. But I think there’s other things that he has in his pocket that I think are elite and that are gonna get him over the curve. Right now he’s playing tackle, but in high school for us he played everything. I mean, I remember we even had him taking a frickin’ snap at center. We were in a playoff game and had a little bit of an issue and he swapped and went in at center. I think just that versatility. He’s a guy that can play any position on the offensive line and be good at it.”
One Last Thing
Stefan Adams considers himself fortunate to have been able to coach Luke Montgomery for the past two years. Theirs is a relationship that will continue on, and go well past football.
“There’s so many things I want to say — I can talk about him all day long,” Adams said. “He’s just a great kid. He’s a great person.”
Fortunately for Adams, Luke’s younger brother Ryan will still be around for a couple more years as Findlay’s starting quarterback. Which means Luke will still be around as much as he can be as well.
“He’ll be wherever he needs to be. If we have a game down in Columbus, he’d be there, you know? He cares so much about everybody else,” Adams said. “I just gotta say, hats off to his parents, right? Hats off to his parents. They’ve done a really good job with the whole family. Luke as the older brother and his journey, I think it’s important to know how much he cares about other people and how he’s more about other people than just himself. There’s some good things that are gonna happen, not even just football-related, but off the field that I’m excited to watch as he continues to grow and blossom.”
No amount of success will come as a surprise to Adams, but for him, it will be everything else that comes along with the success that will be the most memorable part of Luke Montgomery’s journey.
“I think one of the greatest things you can walk off this earth and say is not necessarily what you did for yourself or what you’ve accomplished, but what you did for others,” Adams said. “I think he’ll be a great story from now until then, and whatever he decides to do, he’s going to be great at it. But just really get to know the kid and enjoy him because I think he’s a really special human being.”