By Pat Graham, Associated Press
BOULDER — About Colorado’s newest starting quarterback: He eats fruit-flavored baby food at halftime for a burst of energy.
“Easy on the stomach,” he explained.
Steven Montez also draws portraits of teammates in his spare time and collects cool-looking Nike socks — 80 pairs to date. That’s a very fitting hobby, too, since the young Montez is trying to fill the shoes of Sefo Liufau, who departed with every major passing record in school history.
The fun-loving, video game-playing, artistic-minded Montez hardly views the situation as pressure.
“Might as well enjoy it and have fun, right?” said the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Montez, who leads the Buffaloes into their season opener Friday night against Colorado State (1-0). “In my head, I don’t try to go out there and play like Sefo or recreate anything that Sefo did. I try to play my own game and have fun.”
The 20-year-old sophomore doesn’t feel like a first-year starter. After all, he was thrown into the mix at times last season when Liufau got injured. Montez gave a compelling glimpse of things to come, when he led Colorado to a win at Oregon by throwing for 333 yards and rushing for 135 more. In doing so, he became the first Colorado player ever with 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing the same game.
For his follow-up act, he turned in a three-touchdown, 293-yards passing game against Oregon State.
So, yeah, he feels quite confident stepping in and leading a Buffaloes team that won the Pac-12 South a season ago and finished 10-4.
“I think I’ve definitely got past those first-start jitters and all that,” he said.
Like Liufau, he commands the offense.
“They have confidence in him,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. “Steven having played pretty well gives him so much respect as far as they know he can do it.”
So about the baby food — he said it’s a way to feel full, but not too full before games and at halftime. He typically goes with Gerber products, such as peach or any other fruit flavor. Peas or the meat varieties? Not so much.
“The fruit flavors don’t sit real heavy in your stomach,” explained Montez, whose passions away from the field include drawing, where his specialties are sketching portraits, cars and geometric patterns. “You have fuel in your system and don’t feel hungry. It’s the perfect middle.”
Now, about his sock collection — he accumulates mostly Nike Elite pairs. His favorite is a navy-camouflage set that he was wearing in a high school game when the Buffaloes were scouting him. He had a stellar game, too.
Gotta be the socks, right?
He’s filled with rituals, like wearing a bracelet on his wrist that matches his team’s particular jersey scheme. He also tries to call home to talk to his dad — Alfred Montez, who briefly played in the NFL — before each contest.
Even with that background, when Montez arrived on the Boulder campus — he redshirted for the 2015 season — the offense seemed as complicated as quantum physics. These days, it’s become second nature. Part of that had to do with running the offense during the spring practices in 2016, with Liufau sidelined by a foot injury. It’s been a steady absorption ever since.
His first passing attempt went for a 69-yard score in a lopsided win over Idaho State last September as a backup. He finished the season with 1,017 yards passing and nine TDs. He also ran for 231 yards and another score.
Montez is looking forward to facing Colorado State’s defense, which gave up 456 total yards in a 58-27 win over Oregon State last weekend.
“There are a lot of weaknesses in that defense, and we’re going try to exploit them as best we can,” Montez said.
That’s just Montez — confident in his team’s ability.
“Montez is going to be a great quarterback for us,” senior tailback Phillip Lindsay said. “He knows how to win. We’re going to roll with him.”