Joe Montana on Taking Big Hits—and Why Modern QBs Have It Way Easier

Joe Montana: I think you get to a point in age where you go, “If I’m going to do something…”

Everyone talked about the struggles I went through. Most people don’t understand what happened in high school, in college, and even in the NFL. I think those stories will be crazy for people to hear.

[Also,] I turned 65. The idea had been brought up years ago. But it really sinks in that, if I’m gonna do it, I better do it. I’ve had a bunch of concussions, but I don’t have problems with memory. So you better do it when you remember.

I think there’s a message in Cool Under Pressure about perseverance: fighting for something that you want and believing in yourself and not letting people bring you down and take you off your journey. I think a lot of people think an athlete when they reach a certain pinnacle, that they had an easy trip there. But it’s not always that way. And so I think that’s probably the biggest point.

There’s a ton of old footage from NFL Films. How did you approach going through the film? What was that like to watch?

It was fun, in a way, to look at some of the old stuff, but it was hard, too. You really start to relive the things that took place—like the process before I became the starter in college. Another reason it’s taken so long to get this done is that I don’t live a lot in my past, so I don’t really go back and talk about it unless it’s brought up to me. I like looking forward.

Did you see anything surprising?

The Cotton Bowl game against Houston that we went on to win, scoring a bunch of touchdowns in the third and fourth quarter. Luckily, we had the wind, and the wind had blown so hard. But I forgot how many times I fumbled and gave the ball back to them in that same quarter. So it’s the same type of experience where you say, look, you know, I could have quit right then when I fumbled, right?

But we kept going. The wind was blowing so hard that they didn’t want to punt the ball to us on fourth down. So they went for it and, luckily for us, we stopped them and we went down to score to win.

It would have been easy to quit. I think it’s something for people to take into their own life and say, “You know what? I may get kicked to the curb once in a while, but I just gotta keep the battle going and eventually things will start turning around.”

I was struck by how different the game looked. Do you watch the NFL now, and what about it stands out to you?

The biggest difference is the penalties, and the fact that they’re not hitting the quarterback anymore. At that level, it makes a big difference. It’s almost like practice: you’re still getting tackled here and there and knocked down, but for the most part, the guy that’s a foot, a foot-and-a-half from you, he can’t hit you anymore.

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