Letter after letter poured in from big schools with big names and big programs, all gauging Brandon Montoya’s interest as a prospective collegiate track athlete.
But deep down, Montoya knew he was a small-town kid with a small-town chip on his shoulder. And first and foremost, he was a football player. So when Eastern Washington’s football program offered him a full scholarship, Montoya, a senior running back at 1B Lyle-Wishram (6-1, 4-0 1B Southeast), felt he belonged.
“It’s a somewhat small school, I’m at a small school,” Montoya said. “Going there I’d play with the same chip on my shoulder as I do now.”
Montoya, a senior, verbally committed to play football at Eastern Washington on Wednesday night in a call with the football coaching staff, not long after his initial 48 percent scholarship offer was upped to a full ride. That makes him a rarity at the 8-man level in Washington, heading to play high-level FCS football on a full-ride.
But for a while, Montoya was without a full football scholarship.
Montoya credentials on the football field were getting him noticed. But the multi-time 2B state track champion was drawing interest from high-level track and field programs, the likes of Harvard, Cincinnati, Mississippi State and Air Force. But he wanted to play football, and even thought at one point that track may serve as a trojan horse to play college football.
“He said if I gotta got for track to play football that’s what I’m going to do,” Antoine Montoya, Lyle-Wishram head coach and Brandon’s father, said.
EWU had offered him a nearly half scholarship not long after he won MVP honors at the program’s camp over the summer. That was still the offer at the time its running backs coach Kevin Maurice drove to watch Lyle-Wishram play Colton on the road on Oct. 18. Montoya was flattered, but told Maurice he would keep his options open. But Maurice must have liked what he saw in Lyle-Wishram’s 71-28 road win.
“He was really impressed with (Brandon’s) presence on the field,” offense and defense, Antoine Montoya said.
Through eight games, Brandon has 2,083 yards rushing (20 yards per carry), 190 yards receiving and 43 total touchdowns. As a linebacker, he has 67 tackles, three forced fumbles, thee sacks and five interception.
Shortly thereafter, Maurice send the Montoya a letter asking Brandon to call the next morning. He had good news.
“After coach Maurice came to that came I don’t know what he told other coaches, I’d like to be a fly on the wall,” Antoine Montoya said. “Head coach (Aaron) Best offered him a full scholarship.”
His father knew Brandon he had talent from a young age. When the kids in his neighborhood played pickup football during his upbringing, Brandon shined with his quick feet and high motor. That quickly translated to pee-wee football, when Brandon began playing on invite as a third grader — a year before any youth league typically started kids with pads.
Over the years, the speedster has graduated from blistering sweeps and outside runs to a more polished inside-out game.
As a junior, he rushed for more than 2,000 yards, accrued north of 2,700 all-purpose yards, scored 45 total touchdowns. He made a name for himself across the state in 8-man football, and has continued to do so through his senior year.
Now, he’ll have the chance to do the same in college.