Full circle


Max Montoya (center) with Steve Krieder (left) and Anthony Muñoz in 1981.

Matthew Montoya went full circle guiding Eli Manning to the cameras and Disneyland in the chaos following last Sunday's Super Bowl.

His twin, Allison, went full circle on camera with her long day's journey into night reporter shifts during her siege in Super Bowl village last week.

Their dad, Max, completed the circle when he got the snapshot from the camera in Indianapolis with Allison and Matt in front of Lucas Oil Stadium.

"Didn't go," Max says. "Too hard to get tickets. Maybe if I had one of those police escorts like we had when we played in them I'd have gone.

"It's one of my proudest moments," he said of his kids. "They brought it full circle for me."

With the help of the twins Max has taken this phenomenon known as Bengaldom full circle on its 30th anniversary. As one of the many Bengals who settled his family in Cincinnati and one of the few who played in both Super Bowls, who better to pave the way than a four-time Pro Bowl guard?

Every time we see a Bengals van, an orange face, a black game jersey with a name and number, it all goes back to '81.

"I remember my rookie year when we were coming off a 4-12 season," says Montoya, who also went 4-12 in that first season of 1979. "We'd come out of the tunnel and the fans would flip us off. Call us bums. Two years later there was the Freezer Bowl. If all the people who said they were at the Freezer Bowl were really there, there would have been about a million.

"And then when we came back from Pittsburgh (the AFC Central clincher that year), it seemed like there were 10 to 15,000 people at the airport."

Max is the Pro Bowler. In the late '80s when the Bengals had one of the greatest offensive lines of all time, they had two Pro Bowlers, including their right guard, a seventh-round pick out of UCLA.

Allison is the journalist, the WLWT-TV reporter for Cincinnati's Channel 5 who blankets the Tri-State for the very early morning covering crime to the sublime.

"My dad likes this team," she says of the Bengals now. "He says they remind him a little bit of the team they had in the '80s with all the new young players."

She dug up one of the old pictures from back in the day when the guys who scored touchdowns gave the ball to a lineman so he could spike it. She found one of her dad ("Against the Rams," he says) absolutely burying one in the ground like an early-day Rob Gronkowski.

"She sent it to me and called it 'The First Gronk,' " Max laughs.

Matthew is the historian, a freelance jack-of-all-trades in the media field who has done everything backstage from reality TV to red carpets. On Saturday night he worked the NFL's first nationally televised show for its major awards the featured the Bengals rookie record-setting tandem of quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green.

"You think back to '81 and it was the first year of the stripes," Matthew says. "It was the first year they really broke through. They had some good teams before then, like in '75. But (1981) was the year that everything kind of took off."

But the twins weren't even here yet. They were born into Bengaldom back on Oct. 1, 1982 during the strike when their dad and some of his teammates were planting trees to pick up a few bucks. You can still see a grove of them at Kings Island.

"It was a great time and place to grow up; I was really lucky," Matthew says. "Look at all the families that stayed here. The Muñozes, the Andersons … "

So they weren't around for the loss to the 49ers in Detroit. The one with the four turnovers, failure on the goal line, and Bill Walsh's revenge. Every Super Bowl Sunday, no matter how long ago XVI and XXIII are, Bengals everywhere remember.

"We gave it away," Max says of the first one. "The goal line stand cost us. We had four shots down there and didn't get it in. I was thinking that we needed a back like Marcus Allen that could jump over everybody. Pete Johnson couldn't jump two sheets of paper off the ground."

The twins remember the Super Bowl in Miami in '89, but just barely. Allison remembers Matthew asking their mother Patty when everyone around them went sad with 34 seconds left, "Are we going to lose?" She desperately wanted to go on the field after the game, but since Matthew was a boy and could go into the locker room, Patty lifted him over a fence so Max could get him. Allison couldn't.

"No security. Just a little fence. Nothing like today," Matthew says. "It was crowded and loud. But I wasn't afraid because I knew I was with my dad and he's a pretty big guy. I had my hand in that big paw."

Last Sunday was the next time Matthew Montoya got on a Super Bowl field and this time they had presidential security but he had free roaming with NFL Films, the company Matthew loves and has often frequently worked for the past four years as a production assistant and whatever else they need him to do.

Matthew had a hand in Films' Emmy-award winning Hard Knocks HBO training camp series featuring the Bengals two years ago and he did the Jets camp the next season.

"I really enjoyed working the Bengals camp; that was a great show," Matthew says. "People knew about Hard Knocks before that, but it was the Bengals series that put it on the map."

On Super Sunday, Matthew was a runner for one of the three camera crews sprinting the tapes to the back rooms so they could meet their excruciating deadlines. But the toughest job would come at the end of the game when Matthew's group was charged with making sure they got the MVP to say, "I'm going to Disney World," and for the West Coast commercial, "I'm going to Disneyland." Not exactly a layup.

"You don't have very much time," Matthew says, "And look at it down there. There are so many people."

For awhile they thought it might be Patriots running back Danny Woodhead. But then it became clear it was going to be one of the quarterbacks. At the end of the game, naturally, it was Manning on the other side of the field. Montoya, a walk-on tight end at Miami University who played football and basketball at Northern Kentucky's Beechwood High School, resorted to his Glory Days.

"It was like something out of Braveheart with the two teams coming together at the end of the game. I just took off running as fast as I could. I must still have it," he says. "There were a couple of other guys and we were able to get to him. It's kind of funny. In the Disneyland one I'm the only one in the shot with Eli."

The last time Matthew went to a Super Bowl, there was guy who was ready to grab Boomer Esiason with about a minute left, but then suddenly had to find Jerry Rice.

Allison made sure that Eli picture made the rounds back home and to friends. Everybody knew it was Matthew because of that "ugly red California Angels shirt" he was wearing. If there's a chance he's going to be on TV, he likes to wear something so his mother can recognize him.

"Both of my parents grew up in California, so I went with the retro Angels jersey," Matthew says.

Like 23 years ago, Allison couldn't get on the field but she was behind-the-scenes all week as Channel 5's party reporter. Which is a little like having the title of CEO. It sounds more glamorous than it is.

"It was fun, but I don't know if I slept from Wednesday night on," she says. "Between doing the 11 o'clock news and the morning show, you know how it is at one of these events. There's never much time.

"Everyone in Indy was so hospitable. The Pepsi Fan Jam Concert at the state fairgrounds was probably the best time. I (interviewed) Bobby Ray. He's one of my favorites and he's so humble. He didn't talk about himself. He kept talking about how he grew up watching these people that he was on stage with."

Allison wouldn't mind getting on the field one day. She's used to working her way up. She began her career out of the University of Kentucky in tiny Jackson, Tenn., before getting the call home from Channel 5 about four years ago. Like her brother, versatility is her trademark. There had been no time to wind down from last week and after Friday morning's show she was putting together a package on an I-71 fatal.

"If you're going to do sports," she says, "you better know more than the guys. That's just the way it is."

Max, who wakes up at around six every day to watch her, loves the fact that he's now known around town as "Allison Montoya's dad."

Maybe that's why she responded to Bobby Ray's humility. After playing 16 very good seasons, his first 11 with the Bengals and his last five with the Raiders, Max Montoya decided to live quietly in his adopted hometown, the perfect place, he thought, to finish raising the kids.

After a successful career of running and owning Penn Stations in Northern Kentucky, he's semi-retired at 55 as an administrator but has found a new passion of driving horses and has dabbled in competitions. He owns seven horses on his Hebron, Ky., farm, across the street from Traditions Golf Club, site of another one of his passions.

Less than 48 hours after he called the Super Bowl for NBC, former Bengals wide receiver Cris Collinsworth ran into Montoya at Traditions and as he always does when he runs into one of his many former teammates around town, Montoya reminisced. It was easy to talk about 1981 because there is one play from that year against Buffalo that Montoya can't get out of his head.

He seems to be thinking about the first time the Bengals played the Bills that season, a 27-24 overtime victory at Riverfront that made Cincinnati 3-1 and marked the rookie Collinsworth's breakout game with 10 catches for 111 yards.

"Here's this skinny little kid running around making plays," Montoya says. "Early in the game he goes across the middle to make a catch and just gets drilled. The guy hit him across the face and he comes back to the huddle all bloody and he just says, 'Let's get it done.' And he goes on and makes nine or 10 catches that game.

"That's the way it was that year. We just had a tremendous amount of confidence that we were going to get it done. On Tuesday, Cris said he remembered which play that was."

Both Super Bowl teams were particularly close, Montoya says, and the guys he broke in with remain as such. They were just going through some pictures the other day and came across photos, he thinks, are from Thanksgiving of '81.

It was Patty and Max and Joanie and Danny Ross and Jim Breech, whose family was out in California. It was before kids and the bond has lasted through death. Danny died suddenly a few years ago of a heart attack and Max reached out to bring Joanie to Cincinnati for closure. Then last summer Danny's daughter got married and Max and Patty made the trip to Boston for the wedding.

"All of us were like family; very close," Montoya said. "Still are. I think if you look back on any great teams, you'll find that closeness. That's what you need to be great."

That's one of the reasons Max Montaya is intrigued with the current team. He likes the attitude.

"There was none of that off-the-field stuff," Montoya says. "The leaders of the team seemed to crack down on it and it was pretty serious about football and it was fun. I'm excited about what's going on down there."

Now Allison and Max both have another offseason to mull their Super disappointments.

Allison is thinking she missed a great scoop.

"I wish I'd been in that postgame party with Gronk," Allison says of Gronkowksi's now infamous shirt-less dance.

Max is thinking of the one the Bengals let get away. He'd like to have one of those play calls down on the goal line.

"One of those play-action bootlegs," he says. "We score for sure. Touchdown."

The circle can always open for next year.

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