Allen Park — The comparisons are going to be inevitable, at least for a little while. After Jamaal Williams set the franchise’s single-season rushing touchdown record, pacing the NFL with 17 scores, the team opted to go a different direction in free agency, signing former Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery.
Even during Montgomery’s introductory press conferences, the contrast between the two was stark. Williams was always charmingly silly, quick to go off on a tangent about topics having little to do with football. Montgomery is serious and all-business.
Asked about Williams, in the context of how much he saw what Detroit’s former back was able to accomplish last year, Montgomery made it clear he’s his own man, ready to carve out his own legacy with the Lions.
“Jamaal is a great player, highly decorated player,” Montgomery said. “I’m not here to be him. I’m here to be me. I know I can bring a lot to the table. I don’t wanna be labeled as just, ‘He can do this for a team or for the offense.’ I wanna be able to do everything, whatever coach (Dan) Campbell asks me to do, even (running backs) coach (Scottie) Montgomery, whatever they need from me, I’m down to do. I got that worker’s mentality and I’m ready to get to work.
Whether it’s getting 30 carries, playing on special teams or bringing quarterback Jared Goff a cup of water on the sidelines, Montgomery said he’s ready to contribute however he’s asked. That said, the veteran back recognizes the situation he’s walking into, an opportunity to flourish behind an offensive line that’s viewed as one of the league’s best.
“Yeah, you salivate a little bit,” he said. “You get three Pro-Bowlers in an O-line, them having high expectations for themselves, and me having high expectations for myself, it’ll be really good.”
On the field, there’s some stylistic overlap between Montgomery and Williams. Both are fierce runners, who will happily lower their shoulders for that one extra yard. But, Montgomery has been far more elusive during his career, breaking more tackles than just about any running back since he came into the league in 2019.
For him, that’s more about his mindset than a specific physical ability.
“I can’t really say you can teach it or I can explain it,” he said. “I guess you could say I wear my heart on my sleeve and it’s just how I play the game. I appreciate this game and all it’s done for me. I would be doing the game a complete disservice if I didn’t give it everything I had. If that means breaking tackles, if that’s the formula to break tackles, then so be it. Yeah, I just want to show my appreciation to the game. I’ll get it everything I got.”
That dedication also shows up in Montgomery’s durability. He’s missed just six games during his four-year career, earning a reputation for regularly beating the timetable to return to action when he gets banged up.
“It’s the most important thing,” Montgomery said. “I used to hear this, Coach (Chris) Tabor, my special-teams coach in Chicago, he used to say the best ability was availability. If I can’t be there for my guys, they can’t trust me, they can’t count on me. I won’t allow that to be attached to my name. Whenever those rare cases occur and I get a little nick here or there, I’ll do everything to get back to optimal performance. I’ll be available for my guys.”
Montgomery is currently applying that stay-ready approach to his workouts because he said he doesn’t want to be playing catch-up when players return for the offseason program next month. And without having to worry about his conditioning, he’s prioritizing building relationships with his new teammates.
“That’s important, more than anything else,” Montgomery said. “I need them to feel who I am and know what I’m bringing to the table, and know that we’re here to do this thing, and I’m here to be a part of it.
“…To get an opportunity to come here and play with a team that’s starting something crazy, being able to say that I’m a part of it, I’m blessed,” Montgomery said. “I feel very, very excited to be able to get in the offense that’s so powerful and dynamic, so, I’m excited to be here.”