|10-14-2009, 11:49 AM||#1|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: May 2003
Location: The Ville
California School Has a Montana and a Gretzky at Quarterback
Not sure if thsi is a NFL thread but it's a good read. Mod's can move if they feel so.
WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — In the halls of the Oaks Christian School, students’ artwork is displayed next to pieces by Charles Arnoldi, a noted American painter who uses tree branches in his compositions. Twigs from lofty family trees are also arranged, to arresting effect, by Coach Bill Redell on the rectangular canvas that is the football field.
Quarterback Nick Montana is the son of Joe Montana, who led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl victories and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000. His backup is Trevor Gretzky, whose father, Wayne, won four Stanley Cups and proceeded directly to the Hockey Hall of Fame after retiring as the N.H.L.’s career leading scorer.
The composition of the Oaks Christian Lions, who are 5-0 and ranked fifth in the country by USA Today, ensures that each game has the feel of a movie premiere, with fans in the stands staring at the fathers as they watch their sons play.
Trevor Gretzky insisted that people recognized Nick Montana’s father more often than his own at the games. “Especially my generation; no one really knows who he is,” Trevor said of his father. “People don’t notice him compared with Joe Montana.”
That was not necessarily true when the Lions played recently at Venice High School. After the game, while his mother, Janet Jones, fell into conversation with other parents on the field, a steady stream of people drifted over to his father to have photographs taken with him. As Wayne Gretzky walked toward the exit, fans continued to give chase. Between poses, he pleaded, “Janet, let’s go!”
Nick Montana’s father watches games from the top row of bleachers, a foam cup of coffee in one hand and a baseball cap low on his forehead. Shortly after Nick threw an interception at Venice, Joe Montana cupped his hands over his mouth and shouted in his son’s direction. Nick was oblivious, but a teammate nudged him and gestured in his father’s direction.
Looking up, Nick Montana saw his father point his fingers at his eyes and motion as if he were trying to bail water out of a boat. He wanted his son to go through his receiver progressions. Later, Nick Montana shrugged and said, “I had no idea.”
He was a toddler in 1994 when his father played his 15th and final N.F.L. season, with Kansas City. Trevor was 6 in 1999 when his father wrapped up his 20-year N.H.L. career, with the Rangers. Because they cannot remember much of their fathers’ playing days, each has Rose Mary Woods-like gaps in his knowledge of his father’s career.
During an ESPN interview last year, Nick Montana said he did not know the player on the receiving end of the Catch. (It was Dwight Clark.) Trevor Gretzky, who is 6 feet 4 inches and took a turn in goal at his father’s fantasy camp in Canada two years ago, drew a blank when his father said he filled the net like Ken Dryden, the 6-4 Hall of Fame goaltender who won six Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens.
The sons recognize that their fathers’ achievements are better known to many others. They also accept that people make presumptions about them based on their fathers’ athletic reputations.
“People think you’re snobby, you’re into yourself, you have a big head,” Nick Montana said with a sigh.
They kill the assumptions with humility and do their best to blend in. As their teammate Brian Fifita said, “They’re just kids trying to be kids.”
Trevor Gretzky, a 17-year-old junior, is four inches taller than his father, an elongated clone physically but otherwise his own person. By the time Wayne Gretzky was 17, he had set a single-season scoring record for the Ontario Major Junior Hockey League. Trevor does not mind being Nick Montana’s understudy, saying, “To be a starter at quarterback here at Oaks is such an honor, you have to wait your turn.”
Trevor Gretzky began his high school football career as a linebacker, and he is also attracting the interest of N.C.A.A. Division I colleges as a catcher in baseball. After seeing his fluid throwing motion behind the plate, Janet Jones had a hunch he would be a good quarterback. She arranged for him to meet Steve Clarkson, a quarterbacks coach based in Southern California whose list of clients includes the Arizona Cardinals’ Matt Leinart and Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen, a former Oaks Christian star.
“Will you just tell me I’m not crazy?” she asked Clarkson.
At first, her son did not know how to grip the football properly, and his first few throws sailed end over end like punts. But he caught on quickly.
Clarkson said, “I remember calling up Coach Redell and saying, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but Janet was right.’ ”
Redell, 69, was no stranger to Wayne Gretzky, who remembered him as a quarterback for the Canadian Football League franchise in Hamilton. In 1967, Redell led the Tiger-Cats to the Grey Cup.
Wayne Gretzky accompanied his son to his introductory meeting with Redell and said, “Did you know I got your autograph when I was 9 years old?”
Without missing a beat, Redell winked at the younger Gretzky and said, “See, I was the Great One before your father.”
Trevor Gretzky is not in direct competition with his father’s legend, for which he considers himself blessed.
He cannot imagine trying to be the Greater One.
“I think Nick’s situation is 10 times harder than mine,” he said. “My dad was in a whole different sport. They can’t compare my stats to his.”
Nick Montana, 17, a senior, moved with his family to Southern California last year to be closer to Clarkson, his personal coach. He enrolled at Oaks Christian, whose passing offense was a major drawing point. Upon arriving on campus, he bonded with Trevor, one of the few other teenagers on the planet whose father is a sports icon.
“We probably talked about it once,” Nick Montana said. “I asked him about his dad in Canada and what it’s like when he’s there, like, does he get mobbed?”
At 6-3, Montana, who has committed to Washington, is an inch taller than his father. The resemblance is so striking that when he throws on the run, one nearly expects to see Jerry Rice downfield.
“Nobody has as much pressure as he does, being the son of a Hall of Famer,” Clarkson said. “But he’s not fazed by his last name. He’s not rattled by anything. If he has a bad play, it’s followed up by seven, eight or nine great plays. His personality is very eerily Joe-like.”
One of Nick Montana’s favorite receivers is Trey Smith, a junior who is developing into a Division I prospect, Redell said. Trey’s father is the actor Will Smith, who has cleared his schedule so he can attend every game.
“I’ve heard some kids at our school saying, ‘I’m going to go to the game to see Will,’ ” Trevor Gretzky said with a lopsided grin. At that moment, he could have passed for his father.