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Joe Montana Biography

NFL Player Biography: Joe Montana

By Loot, NFL Handicapper,

Born on June 11, 1956, Joe Montana is recognized by many as the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. Even those reluctant to tag him with that honor will concede he is one of the best and probably the league’s greatest winner. In the 80’s, a time of explosive popularity growth in the NFL, Montana was front-and-center as the league’s top field general, winning 4 Super Bowls from 1982-1990. The everlasting image of Montana is him somehow managing to remain calm in the most high-pressure situations, hence the decidedly-appropriate sobriquet “Joe Cool.”

Montana starred as a high school quarterback and basketball player at Ringgold High--just outside of Pittsburgh. He wisely chose football and accepted a scholarship at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish were just coming off a National Championship. As a freshman, he sat out the ’74 season, before getting involved in the offense in 1975. He engineered a 20-point 4th-quarter comeback against North Carolina, offering a preview of what was to come.

A bad shoulder injury sidelined him in 1976. He red-shirted to retain another year of eligibility. 1977 was his coming-out party. He started the season behind Rusty Lisch and Gary Forystek in the QB rotation, but in week 3, Montana came in and staged another comeback win, this time against Purdue. With Montana now in the starting spot, Notre Dame went on a roll--culminating in a Cotton Bowl win over Texas and winning the National Championship. He would have another big year in ’78, winning the Cotton Bowl again, on a last second touchdown engineered by an ill Montana.


Not everyone was sold on Montana as a potential NFL star, despite stellar play and a flair for the dramatic in college. He was only the 82nd pick, with the San Francisco 49ers taking him in the 3rd round. In 1979, he played behind Steve DeBerg. In 1980, he assumed the starting job and cemented his role with solid individual play, though the Niners finished 6-10. But it was apparent they were a team on the rise.

Picture of Joe Montana

The 1981 season saw the 49ers take their spot among the best teams in the league, with a 13-3 record. They cruised to the NFC Championship game against the still-respected Dallas Cowboys--a longtime NFC power. Down 27-21, Montana marched the 49ers down the field, culminating in a last-minute touchdown reception to a leaping Dwight Clark--known forever as simply “The Catch.” In Super Bowl XVII, the 49ers upended the Bengals 26-21.

The 49ers missed the playoffs in the strike-shortened 1982 season, before losing to the powerful Redskins in the NFC title game the following season. In 1984, however, the Niners were on fire--forging to a one-loss season and becoming the first NFL team to win 15 regular season games. They crushed the Giants and the Bears in the playoffs, leading to a Super Bowl XIX appearance against Dan Marino and the Dolphins. A 38-16 win gave Montana his second ring and a pair of Vince Lombardi trophies in just 4 seasons--not too shabby for a team that until then had seen limited success.

For the next 3 seasons, Montana battled some injuries, yet still had a 25-9 record as a starter. By 1988, he had another future Hall of Fame quarterback breathing down his neck for playing time in Steve Young. Montana, however, got most of the snaps in ’88 as he made the playoffs yet again. Following wins over the Vikings and Bears in the title game, the 49ers rematched with the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII. Down 16-13 late in the 4th-quarter, Montana started at his own 8-yard line, before hitting WR John Taylor for a touchdown with 34 seconds left in the game.

Now a 3-time Super Bowl champion, Montana kept it going in 1989 with perhaps his best statistical season. The Niners were 14-2 and at the height of their powers. In the postseason, the 49ers were deadly, eliminating the Vikings and the Rams by a combined score of 71-16. A 55-10 hammering of the Broncos in the Super Bowl led to Montana being awarded his third game MVP award.

A 14-2 season in 1990 had the 49ers gunning for a third consecutive Super Bowl championship. In the NFC title game against the peaking Giants, Montana got sacked and left the game. The Giants would win 15-13. Montana was out for all of 1991 and threw only 21 balls in 1992. In 1993, he was healthy, but Young had become the established starter, leading to Montana joining the Kansas City Chiefs.

This is generally regarded as a rather forgettable part of Montana’s career, but he did quite well, leading Kansas City to a pair of playoff appearances, including reaching the AFC title game in 1993. Following the ’94 season, Montana called it a day at age 38. His legacy speaks for itself. A quartet of Super Bowl rings and a winning percentage of over 71% makes him perhaps the most successful quarterback in NFL history. He was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

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