By Greg Dardis / Guest Editorial
The story of how Steven Montgomery Jr. made his way onto the Minnesota Gophers’ football field, where he hopes to be a starting cornerback this season, is, at its essence, the story of a father and his son.
Many of Steven’s earliest memories revolve around football and his dad, Steven Montgomery Sr. The 21-year-old from Miami remembers sidling up next to his dad to watch college football on Saturdays and NFL games on Sundays. He recalls throwing the ball around in the yard and scouting local little league games together, all while listening to his dad’s running commentary.
“We always had that football communication in our house,” said Steven, now a senior at the University of Minnesota.
Pursuing a football career had been his dad’s goal decades before it became his.
“It’s a dream my dad had,” Steven said, “but he never had the physical size.”
Instead, Steven Sr. worked as a plumber. He began coaching Steven Jr., his youngest child, when he was five years old and continued until he reached high school.
“He was always on the sidelines, so I never needed that extra push,” Steven said. “Growing up I hated having him in my ear. Now I kind of miss it.”
But he can still hear Dad, whose trademark phrases ring in his mind – mantras like “excuses kill responsibility.” That’s the part of the game his dad emphasized most: mental preparation.
That was also the biggest takeaway from Steven’s summer with our internship program, Dardis Academy. As a focused athlete, Steven decided it was time to do the mental work of preparing himself for his future career.
“Over the last three years, I’ve been going inch by inch with professional development,” Steven recalled. “Dardis Academy allowed me to develop ‘Steve the Professional,’ a side of myself I hadn’t been able to find the time to expand enough.”
While other interns mastered the coffee maker and the Xerox machine, Steven and his colleagues began their summer by undergoing executive training, which included a crash-course in presentation skills, consultative selling skills, professional image, presence and networking. They then put their newfound skills to use by meeting with business professionals and expanding their network.
All the while, each intern worked closely with a Dardis mentor that he or she had been paired with. For student athletes like Steven, it continues a central relationship: the coach. Steven’s mentor, Allison Evans, the academy’s director of recruitment, became his trusted advisor.
“The mentorship is a critical component of the Academy experience,” Allison said. “We work closely with the students to ensure they are continuing to refine these transferrable life skills in their day-to-day interactions.”
Our aim is to provide program participants with a competitive advantage by sharpening their leadership skills and their professional ambitions. It all begins with making a better first impression – a lesson Steven greatly valued this summer.
“It made me look at myself and think, ‘OK, this is what I want to strive for,’” he said. “It gives you such an edge when you can walk into a room and present yourself well.”
Steven’s increased confidence has him feeling optimistic about the new football season and his career prospects. His calendar is marked for Nov. 8, when the Gophers will take on their biggest rival, the Iowa Hawkeyes, on their home turf in Minneapolis. Beating the Hawks is a thrill Steven last experienced as a freshman and one he hopes to repeat this year.
Meanwhile, the communications major is now considering law school. “I think that’s a fascinating world with so many corners,” Steven said.
We have little doubt that this cornerback would cover them well!
Greg Dardis is the CEO of Dardis Inc., located at 2403 Muddy Creek Lane in Coralville. For more information, visit www.dardisinc.com.