“It is good to be back in Durham.”
Those were Scottie Montgomery’s opening remarks when the first-year East Carolina football coach spoke at the Durham Sports Club’s Scholar-Athlete Awards Night Wednesday.
A Cherryville native, Montgomery has spent much of his adult life in the Bull City since playing wide receiver for Duke in the 1990s. Montgomery returned to Durham after the conclusion of his NFL career. He served two different stints as an assistant coach at his alma mater, with a three-year spell as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver coach in between.
“The people around here have treated me like I was from Durham because I’ve been here since I was 17-years old,” Montgomery said.
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When he returned to Durham to speak to 18 Scholar-Athletes being honored for their scholastic and athletic achievements, Montgomery did so as a man in charge of his own program for the first time.
Since being named as Ruffin McNeill’s replacement at East Carolina in December of 2015, Montgomery, who spent two years as the Blue Devils’ associate head coach and offensive coordinator, has been a busy man. Currently laying the foundation for what he hopes is the start of something great in Greenville, Montgomery is still still transitioning to his new job, which entails a greater leadership role and delegating responsibilities to others.
“For the first time, I don’t get to coach a position group,” he said in an interview after Wednesday’s event. “When the meeting breaks, everybody leaves and they’re going their own ways and I’m by myself. So that’s kind of one of the harder things.”
The lessons he learned from Duke coach David Cutcliffe will surely help with the change, though. Montgomery referenced Cutcliffe’s mantra “say what you mean and mean what you say” and the idea of putting family first.
“Our football team is family first,” Montgomery said. “That’s what we try to make sure that we understand. The brotherhood that we have in that building is something special.”
During his speech, Montgomery described himself as someone motivated by fear and competition. That could play to his advantage as he prepares for his first season at the helm of a program with high expectations.
After all, the Pirates fired McNeill, who went 42-34 in six seasons with multiple wins against UNC, N.C. State and Virginia Tech.
The Durham Sports Club recognized 18 Scholar-Athletes from nine different Durham high schools.
Two male and two female athletes took home scholarship awards.
Lee Rodio, a football and wrestling standout at Northern Durham, was awarded the Harold Strawbridge Scholar-Athlete Award, which comes with a $2,000 scholarship. Rodio will attend Duke in the fall.
Riverside’s Reuben Jones IV, a football, lacrosse and swimming athlete, took second-place honors with a $1,000 scholarship. Jones will attend Georgia Tech in the fall and plans on joining the United States Military Academy after one year in Atlanta.
North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics’ Colette Cambey, a volleyball, soccer and track athlete headed to Vassar College, was presented with the Mildred Barnes Scholar-Athlete Award, a $2,000 scholarship.
Hannah Yueh, who was a member of the swimming, tennis and soccer teams for four years at Durham School of the Arts, was second with a $1,000, and she is bound for the Barnard College of Columbia University.
Harold Strawbridge Scholar-Athlete Award nominees
Sam Frey, Durham Academy. Thomas Little, Durham School of the Arts. Anthony Teachey, Hillside. Joshua Morgenlander, Jordan. Ian Bunner, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. Lee Rodio, Northern Durham. Reuben Jones IV, Riverside. Kaleb Barfield, Southern Durham. Jay Huff, Voyager Academy.
Mildred Barnes Scholar-Athlete Award nominees
Cha’Mia Rothwell, Durham Academy. Hannah Yueh, Durham School of the Arts. Leoncia Gillespie, Hillside. Rachel Geoffrion, Jordan. Colete Cambey, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. Jessica Spicer, Northern Durham. Ajeya Boggan-Murden, Riverside. Addis Lemons, Southern Durham. Carli Reo, Voyager Academy.