EVERETT — Thirteen-year-old John Montelus looked into the mirror and saw someone who was lost. His grades were the type that tempt kids to intercept the mail when the report card comes home. He was immature. He was the only child of a single parent growing up in Everett. And because of his weight, he was not allowed to play football.
Mike Milo, an assistant since coach John DiBiaso took over the Everett High football program in 1992, looked at the 13-year-old Montelus and saw a lot of the same things Montelus saw in himself. But Milo, in the most caring way possible, was shallow.
He ignored the goofiness. He ignored the troubling childhood. And what he saw was a 6-foot-2-inch, 175-pound Gumby-like frame on a kid who lived off cheeseburgers, yet still had a lot more growing to do.
“Coach Milo said I was going to be good,” Montelus said. “He promised me. Said I was going to be real good, get a scholarship and everything. He said, ‘If you really push yourself, you can be like this, or be like that.’
“Look at me now.”
In three years as an offensive tackle for Everett, Montelus, who just turned 17, has never allowed a sack, according team coaches. He is projected as a guard in college and Rivals.com rates him as the No. 1 prospect at the position in the country. He has protected the most prolific quarterback in Massachusetts high school history (Jonathan DiBiaso). And he has collected stacks of scholarship offers from some of the best Division 1 college programs.
He finally settled on No. 1-ranked Notre Dame.
“Basically,” Montelus said, “there are things you never thought you were going to be.”
Fitting the mold
John DiBiaso makes a habit of going to the middle school each year and give his usual speech. He looks for kids he could envision suiting up in a Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium. These potential athletes are reminded of the Everett football tradition as they consider their options before high school. He emphasizes that the football team needs these kids.
And then there are the kids who need football.
Montelus, who had been raised by his mother, Eldrige Fabre, fit the mold of the latter.
“I met one of John’s teachers,” DiBiaso said. “They brought me up to him and said, ‘Here’s a kid that could use playing football. It would be good for him.’
“I talked to him. That fall he showed up. The rest was history.”
Montelus and his mother don’t have much of a family, but they have always stuck together. Milo said Montelus’s father now lives in Canada and John visits him infrequently.
“The difference in this story from the Michael Oher story is the mother abandoned [Oher],” DiBiaso said. “John’s mother has been there for him. She’s the most important person in his life.”
Because of his self-described “childhood chunkiness,” Montelus was not allowed to play football, with his weight well over the limit that Pop Warner leagues have for safety reasons.
Montelus lost weight before high school and was sent to the freshman team and told to be an offensive lineman. He went to some practices, but didn’t play much.
“My freshman year I didn’t listen to nothing,” he said.
“We used to push him around on that team,” said Everett senior Gilly DeSouza.
But Milo had been around long enough to know talent was being wasted. So he made the call to the only person that could help.
“I called his mother up,” Milo said. He recounts the conversation:
“He’s got to eat more,” Milo told her.
“Why does he got to eat more?”
“You want him to go to college for free?”
“Well then,” Milo said. “He’s got to eat more.”
By the time his sophomore season came around, Montelus had become a regular at the gym and a stranger at McDonald’s. He was eating nothing but his mom’s groceries (protein, protein, protein) and following Milo’s workout orders. Montelus asked his mother if she needed him to get a job in the offseason, but she assured him she would take care of the bills.
Montelus was instantly transformed.
He pushed his weight up to about 255 — an 80-pound gain in less than 12 months — and won the starting left tackle job in the fall. “Big John” finally earned his nickname.
“We do a lot of work in the offseason,” Milo said. “So we sat down with him and let him know what he could be if he wants to be something. You can’t teach height. That’s all they look for now. I’ve had guys that can drive people 50 yards off the ball but if you’re not 6-5 now they don’t even look at you.”
After his sophomore year, Montelus had four Division 1 scholarship offers.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to try to go even harder my junior year and get more,’ ” he said.Continued...