David Montanez' stature won't strike fear into Gulf opponents, but he plays big.
NEW PORT RICHEY - Technically, David Montanez stands just 5-foot-9, a mere 150 pounds.
The meaning of those numbers does not extend beyond the roster. What Montanez brings to Gulf can be measured only in touchdowns, big gains and big plays.
"Heart," he said. "I bring heart to this team. I try my hardest to make something happen."
In two games, Montanez has done just that, catching seven passes for a team-high 88 yards and a touchdown and rushing seven times for 26 yards and a touchdown.
The Buccaneers are 1-1, having won their home-opener for the first time since 1997 and seeking to end a streak of nine consecutive losing seasons. Montanez is a big part of that climb and of Gulf's made-over offense.
The switch to the triple-option to boost an anemic running game required the addition of a pitch-out man to the backfield of option-proficient quarterback Jeff Blanchette and backs Jordan Stewart and Justin Sconiers. The third option had to be a versatile player; one who can run and catch the ball; one who is shifty and quick with it.
That was Montanez.
"Wherever we need him," coach Keith Newton said, "that's where we put him.
"He was a receiver last year and he had good hands last year," the coach elaborated. "We were looking for a running back to go to the full (wish-)bone. We figured we're going to use him to catch the ball and also run it. So let's move him to halfback and utilize both those skills."
Said Blanchette: "He's one of the toughest players on offense we have."
Montanez has had no trouble with the transition.
"It's easy," he said. "I have hands for catching and I have hands for running the ball. It's easy, and I have the speed for it."
But that speed is nothing without the moves, and the moves are something Montanez has worked on.
"I just watch people on TV, football players like Emmitt Smith, I practice and I try to imitate those moves," he said. "I even watch soccer and try to watch those moves, too."
Said Newton: "David's motor never stops. He is always in motion. He doesn't have burning speed, but he has a sense of the football and he will not let you take him down with an easy tackle. Physically, he is always in motion. You'll never get set enough to take the perfect shot."
On defense Montanez plays cornerback, where that same quickness helps him covering receivers or diving head-first to stop the sweep.
"He's one of the top two cover guys we have," Newton said. "If we have trouble covering a receiver we play David against them."
Montanez has quietly become as much of a leader as a weapon.
"David's is a show instead of a tell," Newton said. "He doesn't speak a lot around here, but he commands respect from what he does in practice, which is always 100 percent."
Montanez said his teammates inspire him to be a leader. After a grueling offseason ("Man, we did so much running," he said) this group did everything it could to re-make a program that has gone 20-70 in nine years.
"The senior team this year is really good," he said. "We're really getting into being a group and being leaders."