-- Special thanks to Coach Jesse Perales for giving us this insight into Buffaloes quarterback Steven Montez --
It all started 21 years ago when I was attending Western New Mexico University, that’s where I met my lifelong friend, Alfred Montez. He was one heck of an athlete from Granada, Colorado and carried the pride of the Granada high school Bobcats. He was a two-time state champion in 8-man football and also won state in basketball and baseball—Just one heck of an athlete. He was our quarterback for the Mustangs and could really play with great size at about 6’2" and 225 pounds. Alfred loved to be out on the field and I knew when we met he had the heart of a competitor.
Alfred’s life started to take off while we were in college. He met Mindy, who was a very talented volleyball player on campus and both of them were athletically gifted. They found a lot in common and were married shortly after college. The Montez family moved to California for Alfred to pursue a career in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders. I still kept in touch and considered them my family. Alfred and Mindy were blessed with a son, Steven, before moving again to Deming, New Mexico.
The small Mexican border town is where the Montez family decided to settle and have another son, Raymond, before Steven started school. Alfred and Mindy fell upon differences in life that couldn’t be reconciled and divorced. Steven decided to moved to Phoenix with his mom for a brief couple years, before going back to be with his dad to Deming.
Alfred and I were part of a seven man crew at WNMU. One of our guys, Bobby Felix, tragically passed away in an accident while living in Tuscon, Arizona. We always talked about "the crew" coaching together, either Tuscon or in Deming. When Bobby passed away, Alfred and I were Pallbearers for the funeral. We reignited the talks about living out our coaching dreams together and at that point decided that either I would be going to Deming, or Alfred would be coming to Texas.
Alfred decided Texas was the right place for a change of scenery. I was very fortunate for him joining my staff. He left behind a head coaching position in Deming to come to El Paso and be a position coach with the quarterbacks. Alfred packed up with Steven and Raymond to move to their new home. The move to Texas was a rough transition on Steven without his mom around. From the time he was born, the Montez’s moved around the country and by the time he was fourteen, Steven moved four different times.
There was a lot of times his parents would be working and Steven would take care of his younger brother by himself, but he never once complained. He had to grow up and mature quickly and being involved in sports from a young age helped him tremendously. It’s tough at that age to be in El Paso, a new place with a completely different culture and being away from your mom. Steven overcame that with a smile on his face. He worked hard on the football field and in the classroom as a great student. He works hard at everything he does and I can say that Alfred did an amazing job raising a man.
There was never a time that Steven didn’t do what was expected from him. As a big brother, son, teammate— all of those things. There were many times I remember Alfred would bring Steven and Raymond with him for coaches meetings at the school. I would find them sleeping in the locker room or Steven would be helping his brother with homework. They’ve always called me "Uncle Jess" and I feel responsible for them as my family as well.
On his way to high school
Steven has always been very simple. He wore shorts all the time in high school. I maybe saw him wear jeans five times over the course of his life. It was shorts and sandals everyday for Steven. I tell you what, he cares about his socks though and is a aficionado with over fifty pairs. Steven would never be dressed up. The only time I saw him in a suit was signing day, homecoming, prom and graduation. He was humble and his parents did a great job of making him realize the value of a dollar and staying true to himself. That’s one of the biggest positives of his character.
Steven got along with everybody, even when he was the talk of the town you wouldn’t know it. He would sign any autograph and be the first to take pictures with anybody who asked. He has always been a very humble hard working kid.
Since about the age of five or six years old, I knew he was very special. Steven would never be able to sit still— never. He grew up very tall and most people thought he was older than he was, but, Steven was very skilled and dominated. Soccer was his best sport growing up and he’s still one heck of a player. During the offseason of his senior year, we would go out and play soccer.
Steven’s techniques for the game are amazing to watch. We knew growing up that he was always two or three steps ahead of everybody. After a couple games of freshman football, we moved him up to JV. He’s always put his team before himself. Anytime Steven received an individual accolade, he was quick to give credit to everybody else before himself. He understood the team concept and that made him better than so many others.
During Steven’s senior year, he was our guy. I always told him, "Look, I’m going to shelter you from the media, until you’re a senior and you’ll be ready to talk all you want." He said, "yes sir" all the time. He went out there and played, but we didn’t run him all year until the last five games of the season. I told him, "Steven, this is your time to shine. If you see it, take off if you want to run. We have nothing to lose" We had some build-in calls from him to run. It was amazing— we knew at that point Steven was a dual-threat quarterback
In the last three games of the Texas state playoffs, he threw for 250 yards and rushed for over 250 yards. Steven literally put our team on his back and willed us to victory. It was an amazing run for our area and team. We took the No. 1 team in the state to the fourth quarter and damn near beat them as well. It was very one-sided in terms of talent. We needed one more decent wide receiver to stretch the field, but the run was amazing to watch with Steven lifting the team on his shoulders. As a coach, I sat back and enjoyed the moment.
You don’t get a guy like that very often with all the intangibles. Steven ended up throwing for 2,987 yards and rushing for 1,058 yards that year. He was truly great to watch.
Recruiting process and coming to Colorado
I used to be a huge University of Texas fan and was excited for Steven to get an official visit from the Longhorn’s coaches. I got an email from them confirming they would be coming by the school to look at Steven. We waited and they never showed up. It was at that moment, that I lost interest with Texas as a program. I was upset after they said they would come and didn’t. If anyone would have called and said "We’re not interested," that would be fine. As a coach you never go back on your word.
In this coaching fraternity your word is the only thing you have besides your reputation. College coaches make their living off of high school kids. That’s just a fact. Normally, coaches are great with the kids and take them to that next level. When coaches don’t show up, that’s not good business. And Steven was worth seeing and meeting in person. Oklahoma State came by three times, Tennessee came by twice, UTEP, Air Force, Stanford, North Texas, UTSA, Rice— They all came by a couple times.
There was a kid out of Eldorado, a big quarterback with a good frame by the name of Zach Gentry. He gave a verbal to Texas and every school that was going to Albuquerque to see him would stop by here to compare Steven to Zach. Every coach would tell me that Steven was more athletic, faster on his feet and had a stronger arm.
Colorado was a surprise to me. Jim Jeffcoat came out here on a whim with no real invitation, he just showed up with us working out and made time to see Steven. Jim heard he was the best player in the region and his first reaction was shock. I remembering him saying, "Holy cow, I need to tell coach Mac about this guy and that’s how Montez’s journey to CU started.
Steven went to a camp in Boulder and met MacIntyre for the first time. He was on spring break from school and went up there to workout. That’s where CU offered Steven. I remember him calling me excited saying, "Coach they gave me an offer, what should I do?" I told him that was outstanding and reminded him that he would have to be comfortable make that decision. "Whatever you decide, I support you."
Sefo Liufau was Steven’s host while visiting CU. The two quarterbacks have always had a great relationship. Sefo has been a great role model and leader for Steven, who has a lot but respect and love in return. The two developed a great bond with each other because they’re both selfless people. If you ask either one of them, all they care about is winning for the team. It’s a healthy competitive relationship between them.
UTEP was only conflict for Steven at that point. Coach Kugler had recruited him for a long time and was very good to him. The ties to Colorado kept CU in focus for him. Steven’s family being from Granada, with his grandparents along with a couple aunts and uncles at still there, help him at Colorado. He loved the facilities on campus and the relationship with MacIntyre and the rest of the coaches came natural. That’s why when CU offered him, he committed early.
After Steven committed, coach Jeffcoat shook my hand and looked me in my eyes with a promise that he would look after him like his own son. The University of Colorado will always have a place in my heart after that. I knew there was something special about Coach Mac and his staff. No big empty promises or overselling. Mac was very honest and upfront about the state of the program along with the plan for the future.
First career start
Steven’s talents are starting to show, because of playmakers around him like Bryce Bobo, Devin Ross and Shay Fields. He knows that his job is to get the ball in his receivers hands and if they’re not open, he can always rely on his feet to get him out of trouble.
Before being named the Pac-12 Player of the Week, he called me and was the biggest critic of himself. He kept saying, "I wasn’t finishing runs. If I would have finished runs, I would have 30 more yards." I told him, "That was an amazing game for anybody, let alone for a first-time starter." Through a tough win, he’s still critical of himself. That’s how you know that he’s willing to put in the work to make everyone around him better. You have something special in front of you, because he’s always wanting to get better.
Steven’s mentally tough and a lot of that comes from his dad being is position coach. Alfred expected the best from his players and that was no different when it came to his son. He was hard on him, but it was tough love. Alfred wanted Steven to succeed. I told him after facing some adversity that, "There’s no coach at CU that can rip you harder than what your dad did." Because Alfred sometimes would show his teeth by putting a ripping on Steven and it was all out of love. Steven never got down and would respond by rising above the expectations every time he was challenged.
What people are now seeing on Saturday’s, I got to see everyday— In practice or a game or life in general. It was an honor to see that day in and day out. I’ve been very fortunate to know the Montez family.
By the numbers
Montez had the best debut performance by a Buff and broke records along the way. He surpassed Kordell Stewart's mark of 430 yards of total offense vs. Colorado State in 1992 and Darian Hagan's 116 rushing yards vs. Texas in 1989. Montez's was also the first player in CU history to throw a touchdown on his first ever pass against Idaho State earlier this season.