INDIANAPOLIS––Sam Montgomery has teamed up with Barkevious Mingo at LSU to become perhaps the best pair of bookend pass rushers in all of college football.
The two have had a friendly rivalry on the football field, one always trying to better the other. And now it's gone from a friendly rivalry to a friendly bet, albeit with relatively high stakes for two players that haven't yet cashed their first professional paycheck.
"We are fighting to compete who is highest in the draft," said Montgomery Friday at the NFL Combine. "That amount of money is pretty big, so I have to come up with this one."
"$5,000," said Mongomery.
Apparently it's not the first bet to two have made either.
"We had three bets going on," said Montgomery. "One was who had the higher sacks for a thousand dollars. I won that. I can't remember the $500 bet, oh yeah, it was who had the most sacks in the last game. I won that."
Many college undergraduates live on diet consisting of 19 cent packages of Ramen noodles, so to hear Montgomery boast of thousand dollar wagers with his teammate perhaps sets off some red flags.
Or course, life is a little bit different when you're about to enter the NFL and experience a major windfall of cash.
Montgomery, however, might be wise not to put the cart ahead of the horse. This isn't the first time everything hasn't been on the up-and-up with the hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker.
One item that got a fair amount of attention in the media in late December was a list of players supposedly missing workouts and being called out by the LSU strength and conditioning coach who went as far as to say he wouldn't talk to NFL scouts about these particular players. Montgomery made the list.
The coach since responded via social media downplaying the significance of the list and saying they're "great kids and hard workers," but the warning signs are there on Montgomery.
In meeting with the media, Montgomery tried to rationalize the criticism he's received as giving a lack of effort.
"Some weeks when we didn't have to play the harder teams, there were some times when effort was not needed," said Montgomery. "But when we had the big boys coming in, the Bamas or the South Carolinas, I grabbed close to those guys and went all out. Of course, this is a new league, the NFL and there are no small teams, small divisions, it is all Alabamas and LSUs every week."
On the field, the 6-3, 262 lb. defender is known as a high-motor player that racked up 49 tackles, 13.5 for a loss and nine sacks in 2011 as well as 37 tackles, 13 for a loss and eight sacks in 2012. Those were performance good enough to be named first-team All-SEC in each of the past two seasons.
"I feel like Sam Montgomery brings it every snap more than Mingo does," said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock in a recent conference call. "He's not as quick, he's not as gifted, but he's very physical and tough."
Montgomery, a junior entry into the Draft, is being looked at as both a defensive end in a 4-3 defense and as an outside linebacker in a 3-4.
The Green Bay Packers certainly could use some production at outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews. With just 46 tackles and three sacks last season, Erik Walden isn't the answer and will become a free agent anyway.
After ending last season on injured reserve with a broken wrist, the Packers will likely turn to last year's first round draft choice Nick Perry in 2013.
Even if Montgomery were available with the 26th selection in the first round, it seems unlikely that the Packers would pull the trigger on enigmatic LSU product.
That's not to say the Packers couldn't add depth at outside linebacker later in the Draft, but in all likelihood they're going to have to roll the dice on Perry. To draft a first-round outside linebacker for a second consecutive year would be giving up on Perry prematurely.
As for Montgomery, the jury is still out. If he's going to be drafted ahead of Mingo and collect that $5,000, he's going to have to prove to teams that they're not taking a gamble, pardon the pun.
"When you are young, you do things as a boy, but when you grow, you do things as a man," said Montgomery. "From a maturing standpoint, and from everything going into this league that I have learned so far, I was a boy in college, and now that I am going into the league, I've become a man."
At the very least, Montgomery seems to have convinced himself. Next comes the rest of the NFL.
Brian Carriveau is the author of "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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