The prankster turns serious Punter: Former Pro Bowl pick Greg Montgomery of the Ravens took a year off, met the woman he calls his "soul mate" and emerged calmer and more determined.

August 15, 1996|By Kevin Langbaum | Kevin Langbaum,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

There are two Greg Montgomerys.

One is the man who was a noted locker room jokester for seven years with the Houston Oilers and Detroit Lions, during which time he established himself as one of the top punters in the NFL.

The other is the more focused, serious man who signed with the Ravens this year after sitting out last season.

"The old me is still there," said Montgomery, 32. "I let it out every now and then. Don't get me wrong, I'm not turning into a bump on a log. I just don't let it get in the way of my work."

Montgomery was a Pro Bowl selection for the Oilers after the 1993 season. He was the NFL's best punter in 1992 and 1993, leading the league with averages of 46.9 yards and 45.6 yards.

He signed with Detroit for the 1994 season but could not find a contract to his liking for last season.

"I thought I had a certain market value and that offer never came in," said Montgomery, who, at 6 feet 4 and 215 pounds, is a former high school linebacker and tight end. "I wasn't in a situation where I needed the money. I knew the demand for a good punter would be in the league the next year.

"I don't regret taking the year off. I needed it mentally. I got a little burned out."

He kept busy playing golf several times a week, working out and operating a coffee house in Houston. He also met the woman he calls the love of his life and marriage might not be too far off in the future.

"She's just my soul mate," he said of Kristen de la Torre, a former swimmer at the University of Houston whom Montgomery met in his coffee shop. "She just kind of sparked something in me. She gave me the drive to play football again. She's real athletic. She likes to go out and work out with me. She'd go out and take my hang times when I was punting."

She's also had a calming effect on Montgomery. The days of locker room practical jokes, like superimposing pictures of teammates and coaches in unlikely positions, are, for the most part, over.

"She's tamed the lion," he said. "It's weird."

Said rookie kicker Chris MacInnis: "I haven't seen the big party animal. Greg's really been serious and down to business. This year he's ready to do well. Every day he's out there helping me."

Now, Montgomery has traded the jokes for the exercise bike, the video room and extra drills. The key to success in the NFL is proper technique, he said, and he's working hard to perfect that.

"The year off really gave me time to think," he said. "I've found a new life. I've got a new attitude and a much better work ethic. When I met [special teams coach] Scott O'Brien, we hit it off right off the bat. I really like his philosophy. He shows every player how to do what they need to do.

"I showed what I can do in '93, making the Pro Bowl and being All-Pro. I want to get back that form. I want to be better than that."

O'Brien was one of the reasons Montgomery wanted to come to Baltimore. He also saw a chance to return to the game in a situation that is new to the whole team.

"I think going to a new city it's a fresh start for everyone," he said. "I'm treating it as a comeback. I'm treating this as a fresh start for me."

The year off helped cure his burnout and now Montgomery is back to enjoying football.

"It is kind of fun again," he said. "The last few years I was playing football I never really had any fun. This year I'm having fun. It's bTC enjoyable to go out there and punt."

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Ravens preseason

Saturday

Opponent: Green Bay Packers

Site: Memorial Stadium

Time: 7 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Schedule

Date, ...Opponent ......... Time .......... TV

Aug. 23. at Buffalo ....... 7:30 .......... 54

Pub Date: 8/15/96

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