By Brian Yauger
In his fifth collegiate year, the quarterback of the Youngstown State University Penguins football team, Montgomery VanGorder, is finally getting his chance to shine.
“It feels great to be back out there again, competing and playing, not just as a holder,” VanGorder said. “Getting that chance to compete, because that’s something that I want to do, that’s something that I love to do. That’s what I missed. It’s been fun.”
On Jan. 3, 2018, VanGorder made the decision to transfer to YSU. A decision that was made with the familiarity of tradition in mind.
“I wanted to choose a school that was similar in the tradition,” VanGorder said. “In the ’90s, Youngstown State was dominant. Coach Pelini was dominant when he was in Nebraska. I wanted to go to a place where there was a similar feel and that’s you get here. There’s a sense of pride and tradition, and I’m excited to be a part of that.”
Through six games, VanGorder has thrown for 1,356 yards and 11 touchdowns. His favorite target thus far has been Zach Farrar, throwing to him 20 times for 307 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s a strong-minded, tough kid,” Penguins head coach Bo Pelini said after the Penguins victory over the Southern Illinois University Salukis. “He’s a competitor.”
Despite coming out of high school with two state championships under his belt, VanGorder wasn’t considered a blue chip prospect, only receiving offers from FCS programs Eastern Kentucky and Murray State and was giving a two-star rating by Rivals.com. He decided to forego those offers and walk onto the prestigious Notre Dame program.
VanGorder, while never starting a game for the Fighting Irish, saw significant playing time as the primary holder on field goals. VanGorder was nominated for the Mortell Holder of the Year Award, a tongue-in-cheek award created by former University of Minnesota punter Peter Mortell.
“The winner of the award selects a charity,” VanGorder said. “I really wanted to win for that, because I have a buddy who has a foundation that I would have loved to raise money for. Overall it was fun, it was a good experience, we made a video for it. It was a good time.”
Football is a part of the VanGorder bloodline with father Brian and brothers Mack and Malloy all being involved in the sport. Mack VanGorder played for the Auburn University Tigers and Molloy VanGorder played for the University of Georgia Bulldogs.
“I think [being a part of a football household] has molded me into the person I am today,” Montgomery VanGorder said. “Growing up, with my dad as a coach, I was moving around so much, so you have to adapt to a lot of situations so that kind of helped me throughout college and transferring. You just learn the ins and outs of the football world. It’s equipped me well.”
Brian VanGorder has had a long and widespread career, coaching all over the country for nearly 40 years, from a high school assistant to defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons.
Currently, Brian VanGorder is the defensive coordinator at the University of Louisville. For two years, Brian VanGorder was the defensive coordinator with Notre Dame, the same time Montgomery VanGorder was the Scout Team quarterback.
“I loved the time I got to spend with my dad,” Montgomery VanGorder said. “I was the Scout Team quarterback so we got to kind of butt heads in practice and stuff like that. Just getting to be around him, not every college student gets to have their dad, one, live that close to them, and two, be a part of their daily lives and their daily routine.”
“I mean, he was on the defensive side so when it came to football we weren’t in the same meeting room or things like that, he wasn’t coaching me directly, but it was a good experience,” he continued.
Montgomery VanGorder looks to follow in the footsteps of his father, aiming to transition into coaching after he finishes his time playing football, whenever that may be. When asked if he wanted to stay on the offensive side of the ball, or switch to the defensive side like his father, Montgomery VanGorder kept an open mind.
“I’d take any opportunity that presents itself,” Montgomery VanGorder said. “I love coaching quarterbacks, so I’ll probably lean towards that side of the ball, but my dad always told me, ‘if you want to be a great offensive coach, you have to learn defense first.’”
“I feel like I have a good grasp of defense, but there’s a big difference in learning it as a quarterback and actually learning schemes, run fits, and gaps,” Montgomery VanGorder said. “Once I’m done, I’ll explore a lot of different options, and just try to get in somewhere. That’s the first step, just getting your foot in the door.”
Whether he decides to continue playing at the pro level, or transition into coaching right after his time in Youngstown is finished, it’s safe to say that the man they call “Gummy” has a long future in the game of football.