When former Duke football standout Scottie Montgomery left the coaching staff to take an assistant coaching position with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, he didn’t envision himself returning to his alma mater again.
But he started the Blue Devils’ offseason with a bang when he accepted a position as the team’s associate head coach Monday. Montgomery will serve as Duke’s wide receivers coach, a position he held for four seasons from 2006-09. He will work alongside Kurt Roper as a second offensive coordinator, focusing on the passing game.
“I can’t put it into words,” Montgomery said. “I look forward to getting back on the recruiting trail, spring ball [and] being around my guys year-round.... I’m overjoyed about where we are as a football family, and we’re going up.”
Before he graduated from Duke in 1999, Montgomery led the program in receptions for three straight years and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player in his junior and senior campaigns. During his four-year tenure with the Blue Devil coaching staff, he recruited some of the most successful wide receivers in the history of the program. Among these wide receivers is senior Conner Vernon, who tops the ACC’s all-time record book in catches and receiving yardage. Montgomery coached Vernon during his freshman season before departing for his coaching stint with the Steelers.
“He got me ready to play college football,” Vernon said of Montgomery. “From route running to catching the football, he showed me what it meant to play this game and what it took to succeed at the college level. To have someone like Scottie who is such a great coach, recruiter and person come back to Duke is just what this program needed.”
Blue Devil head coach David Cutcliffe said that Montgomery’s return would be the perfect way to fill the void left by the departure of wide receivers coach Matt Lubick, who left the program two weeks ago to join the Oregon coaching staff. Duke suffered another loss last week when Cutcliffe announced that tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Ron Middleton would be taking a job with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“We wanted to hire the best football coach that we could hire and who we thought was the best football coach in America,” Cutcliffe said. “That came to Scottie Montgomery—it started there, nowhere else.”
Montgomery’s return to Durham will also help bolster Duke’s recruiting efforts. The recently departed Lubick, who left the team shortly before National Signing Day and took one of the Blue Devils’ offensive line targets with him to Oregon, previously served as the team’s recruiting coordinator.
Vernon touted the new Blue Devil coach’s abilities on the recruiting trail, noting that it was Montgomery’s recruiting style that made Duke stand out to him next to a slew of potential college suitors.
“Yeah, we talked sports and stuff, but we also talked about life,” Vernon said. “When he was recruiting me it was more about how my day was going and less about how my last week of practice went. He was very easy to talk to and developed a great relationship with my family. Overall, I think his abilities as a recruiter are going to be a tremendous asset to this program. He can go into areas where Duke has shied away from recruiting in the past and can pull kids away from some good programs and bring them to a great program like Duke.”
In a press conference Monday, Montgomery said he was excited to get back out on the recruiting trail with his fellow Blue Devil coaches.
He also indicated that his top priority in recruiting will be the state of North Carolina. Duke has been more successful in its recruiting efforts within North Carolina during Cutcliffe’s tenure as head coach, but only four of the 20 recruits that the Blue Devils signed on National Signing Day last week came from in-state.
“We’ve been in an upward trend not only in performance, but also in what we’ve been able to do in the state,” Montgomery said. “We have better relationships than we’ve ever had, and now we have ammo that we’ve never had since I’ve been here. It’s going to be wonderful to get back out on the road not only as the best program in the country, but the best team in the state.”