Wilbert Montgomery

Posted: August 12, 2007

6 Wilbert Montgomery.

It was the run.

Jan. 11, 1981, Eagles vs. Cowboys, a berth in the Super Bowl on the line. On the Eagles' second offensive play, a woozy Ron Jaworski, fresh off a hammering from Randy White, handed off to Wilbert Montgomery, who ran left, then right, then straight through the frigid air into the end zone.

Montgomery ran 42 yards, but the distance seemed so much greater. A sixth-round draft choice, Montgomery had been so painfully shy, so humble, so scared he wouldn't even make the Eagles team when he arrived as a rookie in 1977. He was somewhat of a risk.

But what a reward. In eight seasons in Philadelphia, Montgomery became the Eagles' all-time leading rusher with 6,538 yards on 1,465 attempts, and 58 touchdowns. He gained 194 yards in that NFC championship game, steadying a wobbly Jaworski and leading the Birds to their first Super Bowl.

Had injuries not dogged him his entire career, Montgomery might have gone down as the best ever. He was that good. Vision. Speed. Smarts. Toughness. Montgomery had it all.

"He wasn't real big," said Mike Quick, one of Montgomery's teammates, "but he was as tough as anybody to play that position. He hit guys in the chest. Guys would smash him, and he'd get right up, straighten his helmet, and be ready to play."

After spending most of his rookie season returning kickoffs (he led the NFC), Montgomery gained 1,220 yards in 1978, then 1,512 yards in 1979. One of the most feared tailbacks of his time, Montgomery was dogged by injuries that magical 1980 season, and was even a question mark the day before the Dallas game.

In 1981, Montgomery topped 1,000 yards again - 1,402 - and gained nearly 5 yards per carry. That would be his last productive season.

"Any running back, when he gets up to 15-16 carries in a game, he knows more, sees more, understands how the defense is playing him," Montgomery told The Inquirer in 1978. "It's like music; you gotta pick up the rhythm first, get a feel for how things are going. Trouble is, sometimes before you ever pick that up, they're knocking you silly."

The cycle was vicious, but Montgomery endured and became one of the greatest players in Eagles history.

- Ashley Fox

 


 

Wilbert Montgomery

Eagles Honor Roll: 1987

Position: Running back

College: Abilene Christian

With Eagles: 1977-84

Highlight: Montgomery rushed for 194 yards in the 1980 NFC title game win over Dallas.

Records: He is the franchise leader in rushing yards (6,538) and attempts (1,465), single-season rushing (1,512 yards), and number of three-touchdown games (3).

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