Brian Montique, 31, can easily remember his days playing youth football in Reston.
“I was stuck on the O-line,” said the South Lakes High School graduate who first played youth football as a 75-pound eight-year-old.
He pined to play a skill position, particularly running back, but was forced to wait. Despite a few years playing on the offensive and defensive lines at the youth level, Montique’s opportunity came when he reached high school.
As a freshman at South Lakes, Montique was big and strong for his age. Coaches quickly saw his potential as a full back. He was a natural and often had runs blasting up the middle and through linebackers, gaining a consistent four or five yards. When he broke a long run, skinny cornerbacks bounced off him like basketballs.
Coaches knew and he learned that he wasn’t going to avoid many tacklers, but that he could run over most, eliciting the visual of a tractor-trailer truck in a Schwarzenegger movie.
Montique had a solid high school football career, then went on to play at George Mason University. He ended his football-playing days with a stint on a semi-pro team called the Virginia Monarchs.
“I never stopped loving the sport,” he said.
But it’s not just the runs or the “big hits” that Montique remembers. When he thinks back, he also recalls the coaches who helped him along the way. They pushed, screamed, taught and motivated him to be better — on and off the field. He credits those coaches with whom he is today.
FOOTBALL IS STILL a big part of Montique’s life. Only this time, he’s holding the clipboard.
“I want everybody to play each play like it’s the first play. A winner is defined by how he plays, not the score. I don’t want to see anyone giving up whether we’re winning or losing. Do your job,” he yelled to his team, which is made up of 15, mostly middle school, 110-pounders.
Montique, who grew up in Reston and is now raising a family in Reston with his wife Melissa, admitted he first started coaching last year to spend more time with his son, also named Brian. But he is well aware of the wider impact a coach can have on young players' lives.
With a whistle hanging around his neck, Montique has taken to coaching like a child takes to candy. And if dedication were calculated into the score, his team would go into every game with a sizable lead.
“I usually try to watch two game films of every team we play,” said Montique, who is in his second year coaching football for Reston Youth Association. This isn’t college or the National Football League, so he has to spend the time to go out and film those games.
In the last three weeks of the summer before school started, from 6 to 8 p.m Monday through Friday, Montique was teaching and developing the football skills of his players — skills he said will help win on the field.
However, Montique isn’t blind to the overlap that these skills have in the real world. Discipline, teamwork, perseverance, hard work — these are also important traits for people who hang up the pads for a suit and tie. It’s one of the reasons he takes coaching so seriously.
All those clichés that sound like quotes from Coach Vince Lombardi, Montique says over and over to his players in an attempt to teach.
“I always wanted to come back to the league I played in and give back,” Montique said.
THIS YEAR, Montique has some new help. He has enlisted a few South Lakes graduates, many of whom played football with him. Ahmad Johnson, a graduate of South Lakes, has known Montique a long time. “We played football together in the youth league,” said Johnson.
When Montique called Johnson to see if he’d be interested in an assistant coaching position this year, he was excited about the opportunity.
“Instead of coaching my own kids, I decided to help him out,” said Johnson, whose 7- and 10-year-old sons are playing for other Reston teams in different weight classes. “I’ve always wanted to give back to Reston when I stopped playing.”
Johnson, too, started football early. When he was 7 years old, he played for the Herndon “ankle-biters” — the term used for the lowest weight class for youth football, 65-pounders. When he moved to Reston a few years later and a bit heavier, he started with the RYA in the 85-pound class. He went on to play cornerback at South Lakes on the same teams as Montique.
Another assistant coach, Kevin Boulware, one of the youngest coaches on the staff, graduated South Lakes in 1995. He was also lassoed by Montique to join up. A former running back and cornerback in high school, Boulware is helping Montique’s team learn the basics on both sides of the ball. “I loved football so much and teaching these kids that I think I’ll do assistant coaching for a while and then try head coaching,” said Boulware.
LAST SATURDAY Montique and the rest of the coaching staff took their team to the Ellanor C. Lawrence Park in Chantilly for its first game during the Glory Days Bowl, an event sponsored by Glory Days Grill.
It was going to be a tough test for his team. They were playing Centreville in the American league. In youth football there are three divisions based on the competition. The most competitive is American, then Central and then National.
Montique, who knew the outcome would determine what league his team played in, didn’t have the chance to scout Centreville, like he usually does. “We’re going into this one blind,” he said.
Just before the game started, the players surrounded Montique like a celebrity. He placed his large hand on one of the player’s helmets and told the players to focus. “This is the time to do what we’ve taught you.”
When the game started, it was clear that Montique’s team was physically well-matched with Centreville. But in the end, because of a few lapses on defense, his team lost 26-0.
Morale was down when Montique addressed the team after the game. Just four quarters earlier, he had told his players “how you lose is just as important as how you win.” After the game, he stayed on that theme.
“As long as you all think the game is over in your mind, then it is over. But you have to remember the game is never over,” he said to the young players, some of which may very well be saying the same thing 15 or 20 years down the road to a team of their own.
Later that week, it was announced with the release of the schedule that Montique’s team would play in the American division.