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By LARRY VAUGHT
Florida freshman receiver Alex Montgomery knows about big-game atmospheres.
The 6-2, 210-pound all-state receiver helped Cypress Bay High School reach the Class 8A state title game as a senior, regional semifinal as a junior and state semifinal as a sophomore.
In the Class 8A title game last season, he had nine catches for a state-record 199 yards and three touchdowns, including a one-handed touchdown catch. He also played defensive back and had what would have been the game-winning interception in the state championship game nullified by a penalty. In the two playoff games before the state final, Montgomery returned an interception for a touchdown in each game. He had 69 catches for 1,448 yards and 17 touchdowns his final two seasons.
Now he can only imagine what it might be like to play in front of 70,000 fans or more at Commonwealth Stadium or other Southeastern Conference venues.
“That’s the nerve-racking part right there. In my high school state championship game, we had 14,000 people and it was so loud I could not hear my quarterback. So imagine 70,000?” said Montgomery Monday during UK’s Media Day. “I have to get used to it. That’s one thing you can’t fold under. It might be mental, but you can’t listen to people around you, people in the stands. You can’t listen to the noise. You have to play your game. I am just looking forward to having crowds like that.”
He shared these other thoughts on his play and the upcoming season.
Question: What did you do the last few months to get ready for this season?
Montgomery: “The summer was great. We just prepared and worked hard every day trying to get everybody together. It is a big jump from high school to college no matter what you do. Workouts, school. Everything is your choice. You have to get up and do it. You are on your own. If you don’t do it, you don’t play.
“I learned before I got here what to do. My high school coach taught me a few things about not being late and that being on time meant being there 10 minutes early. Still got the same rules here. That helps with discipline on the team and is good for the program.”
Question: What gives you the knack for making big plays in big games like you did in high school?
Montgomery: “My coach made me practice first string, second string and third string. I never got a break. Easy games I would practice so hard, but I wouldn’t get the ball. Then big games, he trusts me the most to make big plays, so I had to make big plays. No ifs, ands and buts. I wanted to make those big plays and why he chose me to make those big plays for him and I had to produce.”
Question: What makes you such a good receiver?
Montgomery: “I just have a good mindset. It’s all mental. If you can do it mentally, you can do it physically or however you want to do it. I got the mental aspect down. As a receiver, you have to have some physical ability, too. So hands, being physical, it is natural for me.”
Question: How would you describe your personality?
Montgomery: “I am very laid back. I don’t like to do much. I just sit down, do what I have to do and hang out with the guys. That’s about it.”
Question: Do you feel pressure to produce with the lack of depth at receiver?
Montgomery: “I don’t view it as pressure. All the receivers here are good receivers. It’s not like we just came here and have a job. We have to compete like everybody else. It is all up to the coaches at the end of the day. Whoever competed the best and earned the chance to play will have that job.”
Question: What have you thought of the quarterbacks during summer workouts?
Montgomery: “They are all the same to me. I am just look forward to see who gets the starting position. I am looking forward to the competition and how the competitive nature comes out in them. Whoever earns that position will be good.”
Question: Was it a big adjustment learning to catch balls from SEC-caliber quarterbacks?
Montgomery: “I had a great quarterback in high school, but here the balls are different. The timing is different. You have to get used to ball, timing. You have to put in extra work catching balls and put in extra work after practice with the quarterbacks running routes to get the timing down and then the flow will start coming. When I first got here, the flow was not there. By the second week, the flow came and it kept coming and I got comfortable and can play my game like I want to because I learned the plays.”