Will Montgomery and John Beck worked together for three-plus games last season without producing a victory in Washington, but the starting center and the now-backup quarterback were back together again last month. Not on the field, but in classrooms at Harvard Business School as part of the NFL's Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program.
Montgomery, who made Carolina's roster as a seventh-round pick in the 2006 draft, was always prepared for life after football. He was recruited by Harvard's Ivy League rivals Yale and Brown before walking on at Virginia Tech where he soon earned a scholarship before becoming an honors graduate in business information technology while also earning a master's in health promotion.
Beck, chosen 40th overall by Miami in 2007, has been focusing primarily on football since he was a Brigham Young freshman in 2003 after serving a two-year Mormon mission. He was planning to study business at Brigham Young before switching to the less rigorous communications major when he was named the starting quarterback in the spring of his freshman year.
"To this point in my life, everything has been about football, but when I'm done, it will be totally different," said the 31-year-old Beck, whose three starts in 2011 were his first since he was a Dolphins rookie. "I want to find something that I love doing and can still support our family (he and his wife Barbara have three sons under 6), but that won't take me away from them like I have been."
Hence his interest in attending the Harvard program.
"Harvard had some of the things that I really wanted to focus on like entrepreneurship and financial analysis," Beck said. "And from a networking standpoint, I'd get to meet some of the professors and students there."
Montgomery, 29, is now the more-established of the duo after starting all 16 games last year and being expected to be the Redskins' regular center again in 2012. However, he's wisely still looking ahead to his next career.
"I don't know long my (football) career is going to last and (Redskins right guard) Chris Chester went to the program at Wharton a couple of years ago so I thought that, at the worst, I could make some contacts and have something to slap on my resume," said Montgomery, a Merrill Lynch intern a couple of offseasons ago. "But I really enjoyed Harvard. We went over 15 case studies. (Yale graduate) Gary Fencik, who was a safety on the (Super Bowl champion) '85 Bears and now helps run an investment management firm in Chicago, spoke to us. We had a couple of cocktail parties with people from other programs that were going on at the same time. One of them was for people who have started their own businesses that had to be worth between $25 (million) and $50 million. I made some good contacts."
So did Beck, who also relied on a special contact that he had from birth. He called his father, Wendell, between classes in which they were studying the kind of negotiations which the Arizona commercial real estate developer conducts on a regular basis.
"I was constantly on investopedia.com looking up terms, definitions and meanings," Beck said. "I was impressed that Will was able to buy the property for one of the lowest prices. He must be a pretty good negotiator. Harvard really did live up to my expectations. There were some really intelligent guys in the class, guys who are excited about something beyond football. Being there opened up my eyes to a world that I need to learn about."
Indeed. While Montgomery signed a four-year, $12 million contract on Feb. 27, Beck might not even have a job if the Redskins don't keep a third quarterback behind expected rookie starter Robert Griffin III and Rex Grossman, who started 13 games in 2011. And at $1.3 million, Beck is pretty pricey for a third-stringer with a career 0-7 record. So the head start on his future could come in very handy sooner than he hopes.
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