COVINGTON, Ga. — Steven Montac’s got quite the story.
Before he could graduate from Newton High and graduate from Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College, the 5-foot-10, 188-pound South Carolina senior had to graduate from wearing his sister’s shoes. Now he’s looking to help anchor a retooled Gamecocks secondary after the departure of safeties Chris Lammons and D.J. Smith as well as cornerback JaMarcus King. Montac recorded his three interceptions last year against Vanderbilt, and Clemson in the regular season and against Michigan in the Outback Bowl. Montac is a versatile DB whose played corner, safety and nickel for the Gamecocks, and is looking forward to a breakout senior season in 2018.
A sociology major with plans to venture into broadcasting or sports psychology once his football playing days are done, Montac recounts the journey he took to make it to Power Five status and offers up his own brand of encouragement to players being overlooked in the recruiting process.
STOVALL: You may not have expected it to come this fast, but now that your senior year is here, how are you planning to go out with a bang?
MONTAC: “I expect to be starting the whole season. Last season I started two games. My sophomore season I started four games. But last year I had a stress fracture in my right foot. Just running on it too much and not having enough vitamin D. My bones were kind of week, and that kind of held me back, me not taking care of my body the right way. But this year I’m looking into coming in fresh and healthy and play a whole season.”
STOVALL: What kind of adjustments did you make to your body to help it become stronger?
MONTAC: “I Just started taking my vitamins more. Trying to drink more milk and get my vitamin D level higher just so my bones could be stronger and I could actually come back in the season to be the best I can be. It was hard knowing I missed a lot of games, a lot of big games I could’ve helped my team in. Before my injury I had three interceptions in my last five games, so I figured if I could play a whole season, I just kept thinking about what my stats could’ve been and what my team could’ve done. It was definitely hard.”
STOVALL: How tough was your journey from very undersized high school freshman to D-1 starter?
MONTAC: “It was hard. My ninth and 10th grade years, I played JV. I was undersized like 5-foot-2 or 5-foot-3. I was really small, maybe like 132 pounds. I used to wear my sister’s shoes, and she’s like 5-foot-3 right now. It was very hard. My 11th grade year I played more and then my 12th grade year I played a lot. I wasn’t highly recruited out of high school, and my grades were really, really bad, so that one year I went to JUCO and got myself together some, and after that one year I went to South Carolina and everything just went from there.”
STOVALL: That said, with all the difficulties and shortcoming and odds stacked against you, what kept you from giving up?
MONTAC: “I always just knew what I could do if I had the chance. Coach (Josh) Skelton just pushed me to the limit and it paid off. I always stuck with it. I believed in him and he believed in me and we both made it happen. So when I got the opportunity I just made it happen.”
STOVALL: When did it click for you that you knew you could play Division I football at a Power Five school?
MONTAC: “It was two things: My 11th grade year after I started doing pretty good, Pitt came to talk to me. The University of Pittsburgh. Like, that was the first big D-1 school to come and talk to me. But when they saw my grades they said they just couldn’t do nothing with that, so it just clicked to me that I had to get my stuff right. And I knew I could do it, but it was on me. I gotta keep pushing do better in school keep and keep getting better.
"But the second thing was my 12th grade year when I guarded (former five-star Lovejoy prospect and current Colorado State receiver) Preston Williams. He was supposed to be a big time receiver and I locked him up. I knew I could do it. Then at all the big camps that I went to during the summer where these quote-unquote high type prospects were or whatever, it was like they were nothing, and I realized I could just be better than them and be a top DB and top player in the nation, so then it was like, ‘why not me?’”
STOVALL: Given your journey, how much stock would you encourage emerging athletes to put into recruiting rankings as they navigate their way to playing college ball?
MONTAC: “None. Out of high school I had zero stars. Out of JUCO I had two stars. And I start safety at South Carolina in the SEC over four-star prospects, over three-star prospects. I had better stats than five-star prospects that’s in college right now. So you don’t pay any attention to that. It don’t mean nothing. As long as you keep working, do what you can do and control what you can control you’ll be fine.”
STOVALL: How are you handling your aspirations to play in the NFL?
MONTAC: “I’m just trying to work as hard as I can come this season to play to the best of my ability. I’m not trying to put too much thought into that right now. At the end of the day, NFL teams pick their players based on how they feel. I can’t force them to pick me, but what I can do is just keep playing my best and let it go from there.”