Just like when he's handed the ball, Bears running back David Montgomery doesn't hesitate when asked what prevents him from becoming complacent.
"I remember that I didn't have any offers coming out of high school," said the fourth-year pro. "I remember that we didn't have any money when I was younger. I remember that when I got to college, I wasn't supposed to play as a freshman. And I remember when I was coming out in the draft, I got passed up a bunch of times."
Entering the final year of his rookie contract would seemingly provide even more motivation in 2022. But Montgomery insists that any extra incentive stems from knowing that he's due to become a father in January.
"I'm excited to be a dad," Montgomery said. "So, [I'm] just being sure that I'm being the best version of myself for my girl, but also being prepared to be the best father I can be, too … I'm not really paying too much about a contract because I'm a firm believer that God's going to take care of whatever he's supposed to take care of when he's going to. It's going to happen when it does."
Selected by the Bears in the third round of the 2019 draft out of Iowa State, Montgomery has led the team in rushing in each of his three seasons with 889, 1,070 and 849 yards. Also an excellent receiver out of the backfield, the 5-11, 224-pounder is just the fourth player in Bears history to generate at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage in each of his first three NFL seasons, joining Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, Matt Forte and Jordan Howard.
Despite Montgomery's success, he's often overlooked. ESPN recently asked 50 NFL executives, coaches, scouts and players to rank the top 10 running backs in the league and he didn't garner a single mention. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the NFL's 19th best running back.
"I take everything personal," Montgomery said. "You see lists, I see them, too. Knowing that I definitely have a child on the way puts things in other perspectives as well to tell myself: 'You've got to go harder. It's not enough. It never will be enough. And the moment that it is enough, it still won't be enough.' I'm out here to not prove anybody wrong, but prove stuff right to myself."
“You don’t get treats or cool points for being a pro. It’s either you’re a pro or you’re out of the NFL.” Bears RB David Montgomery
The Bears, along with the 31 other NFL teams, took to the practice fields on "Back Together Saturday," the annual celebration of football's return across the league.
Montgomery's steely resolve and tenacity has been evident to Bears first-year coach Matt Eberflus since they began working together in April.
"He's been great," Eberflus said. "He's been a pro and he's been that way since the beginning. He's a very serious-minded young man. He is all business. He's done that since the day I met him. He's real consistent.
"He's very serious, very intense, and that's very important at that position. He has to deliver the blow, take some and hang in there and do protections and square up on blitzers, and he's done that."
While pleased to hear what Eberflus had to say about his professionalism, Montgomery has never considered any other approach.
"It's definitely good that someone recognizes it, but at the same time, it's just being a pro and just what I'm supposed to do," he said. "You don't get treats or cool points for being a pro. It's either you're a pro or you're out of the NFL. I think I want to pick 'being a pro.'"
Montgomery's no-nonsense attitude meshes perfectly with the increased level of accountability that Eberflus has infused at Halas Hall.
"Just knowing that I've got to stay on my toes at all times is definitely good for me and it's good for everybody else too," Montgomery said. "It's going to help me and everyone else around be the best version of themselves."