Retired National Football League quarterback Joe Montana spoke to Rockhurst students last Thursday at the Marriot Hotel in downtown Kansas City, Missouri as part of Rockhurst’s annual Leadership Series.
In a black suit, Montana participated in a student-led Q&A, focusing on his leadership on and off the field and his enduring legacy.
Montana’s ascendance to the status of NFL legend was hardly assured. He explained that he might not have even made it college ball, had it not been for his father.
“I wanted to quit,” said Montana, raising his bandaged hand to his chin, “But it was the middle of the season. My dad said, ‘If you want to quit, you gotta wait ‘til the season ends,’ and then the games started, and I was having fun.”
Answering from the front row of students, “Joe Cool” spoke about his own college experience. In his freshman year at University of Notre Dame, Montana found himself overwhelmed academically and athletically, and he struggled to meet high expectations.
Initially selected in third round of the NFL Draft, the future 4-time Super Bowl champion and 3-time Most-Valuable Player persevered.
As a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, Montana put his calm leadership style to the test. Montana believes that cooler heads prevail in tense situations. “Yelling. What does that get me?”, he said.
“The best motivation is your work ethic,” Montana said, “I don’t ask more of people than I do of myself.”
Regarding winning his first Super Bowl in 1982, Joe remarked on how it was like “giving a kid chocolate for the first time.”
Much of the Q&A focused on Montana’s trade from San Francisco to the Kansas City Chiefs. Montana’s addition to the Chiefs’ roster in 1993 helped lead the team to its’ first American Football Conference Championship game, culminating in a narrow loss on the road in Buffalo, New York. However, 25 years later, Montana remains adamant that the game was indeed winnable.
Montana also praised Kansas City, remembering that “the people were so wonderful and inviting” to him and his family.
Discussing his legacy, Montana credits getting his four kids through college as his greatest achievement. He cited his 49ers Coach Bill Walsh with helping mold him into the man he became. He also noted the importance of being his own person.
“I look up to people, but I didn’t try to be like them,” Montana said as parting advice, “I always tried to be myself.”
And when asked who would make the Super Bowl and win, Montana replied “Chiefs, Chiefs!”