Sept. 16, 2017

by Spencer Haynes

Football did not come first for senior offensive lineman John Montelus. Computers did.

Montelus says his fascination for computer parts began around eighth grade.

“Since [then] I’ve had a really big passion for computer parts, how they work and PC games,” Montelus said.

How did Montelus come to build computers? He attributes his knowledge his uncle and to YouTube.

“My uncle is a computer technician, so I’ve watched him build computers,” Montelus said. “I’ve watched a bunch of YouTube videos too.”

After learning how a computer functions, Montelus meticulously put together his first one.

“I built it on my own,” Montelus said as if it was a routine activity.

Montelus does not foresee his interest in computers factoring into his career, but he plans to continue tinkering with them in his free time.

“I will build them for gaming purposes or for personal use,” Montelus said.

Growing up as an only child, working with computers was another way to entertain himself. Montelus certainly did not mind the quiet household though.

“It was peaceful,” Montelus said. “I liked it a lot. No one is bothering you.”

While he appreciated time by himself, Montelus liked being around his friends too.

Furthermore, his status as an only child influenced his decision to play football.

“Being an only child, I didn’t want to go home after school right away, so my freshman year I joined the football team,” Montelus said. “It was a way for me to hang out with my friends.”

After playing his first season of football, Montelus had all but decided to quit. Enter Mike Milo, Montelus’s offensive line coach, or as Montelus refers to him: Milo.

“My freshman year I was a skinny kid,” Montelus said. “After my freshman year, I didn’t think football was for me. Then, [Coach] Milo came to my house to talk to my mom and me saying, ‘I think you should stick to football and get bigger, and if you listen to me, and take football seriously, you can go places. You can play in college.'”

And that is exactly what Montelus did.

“Going into my sophomore year, that summer, I gained over 50 pounds,” Montelus said. “I went from 200 to 250. After [sophomore] season, Milo promised me that I would get a scholarship. He was going to make sure of it.”

Montelus attended various team camps and landed multiple scholarship offers. Even in college, Montelus and Coach Milo have kept in touch. What has made their relationship great is how it stretches beyond the boundaries of football.

“We still have a great relationship,” Montelus said. “He made me look at my education differently. I started taking school more seriously. I started getting better grades. I started staying after school if I needed help with homework. If it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be here right now. He opened up the doors and told me anything was possible.”

The impact of Mike Milo has influenced what Montelus wants to do after his football career ends.

“Once football is over, I want to start helping kids, start helping people,” Montelus said. “Right now, I am getting my masters in education psychology, and I want to use that to work in the public school system to help the less fortunate.”

He anticipates himself working at the high school level.

“I want to start in high school, because high school is the start of everything,” Montelus said. “That is when you have to start taking things seriously. You have to decide what you want to do, if you want to go to college. I want to help kids realize you can actually go to college. I want to help them get to that next level.”

Montelus uses challenges he has overcome in the past to help guide him in the present and future. For him, the transition from high school to college is one of those occasions.

“I was highly recruited out of high school, but my freshman year (at Notre Dame) I had shoulder surgery, so I missed the whole season,” Montelus said. “Being highly recruited, having had shoulder surgery and finding yourself not playing, is frustrating.”

Montelus, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, did not allow himself to get discouraged by his experiences. Instead, those obstacles cultivated a mindset of determination.

“Those challenges humbled me when I came here to Virginia,” Montelus said. “Being older and wiser, I see what I did wrong at Notre Dame. I’m leaving all that behind now. Honestly, not playing at Notre Dame was the best thing that ever happened to me, because it made me into the person I am today.”

Montelus is eager to begin this next chapter in his life at Virginia.

“The coaching staff understands me,” Montelus said. “With coach (Garett) Tujague, [offensive line coach], I am completely myself. I can talk to him about anything.”

From Coach Milo, to Coach Tujague, Montelus has found people to push him to achieve excellence.

Now it is Montelus’ turn to be a role model and just maybe he will impart some computer knowledge on them too.