Montgomery grads head to NFL training camps (1120 hits)
The end of the 3-1/2-month National Football League lockout due to the dispute between owners and players is good news for football fans and the start of a big opportunity for a pair of Montgomery High School alumni.
Quinton Spears, a 2006 graduate of MHS and a defensive standout at Prairie View A&M University, is at the Miami Dolphins preseason facility in Davie, Fla., today preparing for training camp that begins Thursday. Greg Smith, also a 2006 MHS graduate who played for The University of Texas, hopes to secure a spot on the Carolina Panthers roster.
Its been a long, anxious period waiting for the lockout to end, Spears said. This is a big opportunity for me, and I intend to make the most out of it.
Although Spears went undrafted, he said he was in touch with a number of teams and attended pro days structured tryouts in which teams evaluate prospective players. The lockout halted all communication between Spears and any of the NFL teams considering him.
When he wasnt picked in the draft and during the lockout, Spears said he considered a number of alternatives to the NFL, including Arena Football, the Canadian Football League and even European football.
I talked to players who went to Canada and the arena thing, he said, but its hard to make it to the NFL when you go that route. The risk of injury is a big factor.
Spears focus on the NFL paid off. He was contacted by the Dolphins organization Monday and offered a spot as a free agent once he passes his physical. Free agency officially begins Friday.
Its crazy right now, but Im looking forward to getting started, he said of getting oriented to Dolphin preseason activity. Theres going to be a lot of pressure, and I need to show the coaches what I can do.
Karen Smith, Gregs mother, said he was traveling Tuesday to report to the Panther training camp.
Were very proud of Greg, she said. Hes done so well and this is a great opportunity for him.
Montgomery football coach John Bolfing recalls Spears as a mature young man with a lot of natural talent who worked hard to improve his skills.
Quinton is a great kid from a great family, Bolfing said. Were very proud of what he has accomplished.
Gwen Jones, Spears mother, said she too is proud of her sons accomplishments both on and off the field.
Im excited for him, she said. Its been a real journey; but hes always had a very positive attitude and he doesnt give up no matter what.
At Montgomery, Spears was a 6-foot-3 wide receiver, but he was forced to sit out his entire senior year when he suffered a torn meniscus during the first scrimmage of the season.
Ironically, Smith also missed out on his senior year at Montgomery, Bolfing said. Smith suffered a torn ACL and was unable to compete his final year as a Bear. But he went on to be an accomplished tight end at the University of Texas.
A number of changes were made when Spears went to Prairie View A&M. He added 60 pounds of muscle, going from 180 pounds to 240 pounds, and switched to defensive end. As a member of the Panther team, Spears was a unanimous preseason All-SWAC first-team selection at the defensive end position in 2009.
Smith was first-team Academic All-Big 12 at Texas and was the top receiver in the 2011 East-West Shrine Game.
With a 2010 record of 7-9, this is a rebuilding year for the Miami Dolphins. Spears is one of 90 players fighting for a spot on the roster that must eventually be pared down to 53 players by Sept. 3. The Dolphins take on the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome for their first preseason game Aug. 12.
Exactly one month later, Miami opens regular-season play against the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football Sept. 12.
With a record of 2-14 in 2010, the Carolina Panthers are also rebuilding. The Panther take on the New York Giants Aug. 13 in their first preseason game. They travel to take on the Arizona Cardinals for the first regular-season game Sept. 11.
Smith and Spears will have a chance to go head-to-head when the Dolphins host the Panthers on Aug. 19. With both playing on opposite sides of the ball, the chance of them meeting up is high.
Bolfing said the season both Spears and Smith sat out because of injuries was his first year as head football coach at Montgomery.
Just think how much better we could have been with both these fine players, he said. I wish them all the best in their pursuit of an NFL career.