Bert Montgomery: Football players and law breakers


Bert Montgomery & Bert Montgomery



Dr. Kent Sills ("Doc Sills" everybody called him) was the director of bands at Mississippi State when I was a student here back in the mid-80s. I played trombone in the Maroon Band. Doc used to say - especially during football season, and especially when we went to road games - that if any of us got arrested, he wouldn''t claim us. Furthermore, whenever we got out of jail for whatever the reason, we could just go ahead and turn in our band uniform, and then tell people that we "used to be in the Famous Maroon Band." 


I''m glad Doc Sills, let alone the Starkville Police, never visited my freshman dorm room on the third floor of Sessums (It was still a guys'' dorm way back when...). On my wall hung an official Mardi Gras Route - No Parking street sign. It was a birthday present sent to me from one of my best friends back home in Louisiana. By "official" I mean it mysteriously (and unbeknownst to me) left its post along a parade route and somehow ended up wrapped as a present and mailed to my MSU post office box. 


Now that I am an ordained minister, and a Baptist minister at that, I of course cannot condone such hooligan behavior displayed by one of my high school friends.  


Oh, but when I think of the what-could-have-been news headlines . . . 


Maroon Band Trombonist Blows It: Trades Band Dreams for Stolen Sign (Future with Maroon Band is certain: "I don''t know Montgomery," says Sills).  


I am the first to admit that big-time college sports (i.e. Southeastern Conference) is one of the most exciting things in the world. I am also the first to admit that when I want to win football games, I look to the guys playing in the SEC West; when I want to find a good brain surgeon, I look to the women and men who graduated from Tulane.  


That view changed recently when I had a starting player from the football team in one of the classes I teach at MSU. Good student - motivated, disciplined, and perfect attendance.  


But then a terrible thing happened: Two other football players from MSU (Oh, why couldn''t it have been Ole Miss? Why?!) recently had some run-ins with the law. Immediately, the high court in my mind began passing judgment. Typical college football players! No discipline! And, surely, I am not the only one who thought, "Well, we may not have won a bunch of games, but THIS wouldn''t be tolerated under Coach Croom." Be honest. See - I knew others were thinking it, too. 


Then I recall my own reckless days of college life when I was hooligan enough to accept stolen goods. Me - an A-B student! Me - with a band scholarship. Me - from a good home.  


Well, as far as the good home goes, Dad does have a shady past: He was arrested as a student at Tulane for disturbing the peace. He and other students were driving around New Orleans honking their horns and getting everybody fired up for the Tulane/Ole Miss game (nobody likes Ole Miss!). Dad could''ve blown his chance at law school. I could''ve blown my chance with the Maroon Band. And now everybody''s watching to see what becomes of two Bulldog players. 


And, all of a sudden, I''m giving the high court in my mind a rest. I don''t want to downplay the seriousness of any offenses, especially if drunk driving was involved (drunk driving killed my cousin).  


But, I look around at adults I know - from lawyers and doctors to social workers and ministers, and even to judges and police officers - who can tell some wild stories about their own high school and college days, sometimes involving alcohol and drugs (I''ll leave the stories to them - I''m not going to "out" anybody ... and I think back to my own criminal days for which I got away with the serious offense of accepting a gift from a friend that, legally, he shouldn''t have had in the first place ... and I think back to my own father''s noisy criminal past - my Dad. A good, decent, upstanding citizen and church deacon that could easily compete with Mayberry''s Sheriff Andy Taylor for the Lifetime Integrity Award ... and I wonder how any college students, especially those with the kind of pressures facing SEC athletes (on the national stage, with tons of adults'' super-sized salaries depending on their ability to run or catch or tackle or throw), and, again, while by no means condoning criminal behavior. 


All I can say is I''m not going to say anything anymore. Twenty-something years later, with a Mardi Gras sign on the wall next to me ... who am I to judge? 


Besides, Ronny - if you''re reading this - that sign was one of my best surprise birthday gifts ever! And, to Coach Mullen, assistant coaches, and everybody on the football team - GO STATE!  


From now on, though, let''s ALL agree (myself included) to leave the scandalous behavior to Ole Miss ... 


Bert Montgomery is an author, MSU religion/sociology instructor, and pastor and lives in Starkville. His e-mail address is [email protected]


Bert Montgomery is an author, MSU religion/sociology instructor, and pastor and lives in Starkville. His e-mail address is [email protected]


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