Thumbs up Max Montoya, the best guard in Bengals history.
Max Montoya, the best right guard you don't know, is the best reason for celebrating 50 seasons of Bengals.
Montoya isn't the only reason of course, but guys like him are the best reasons. Guys like the two Kennys, quarterback Ken Anderson, and cornerback Ken Riley. Guys like wide receiver Isaac Curtis and tight end Danny Ross. Guys like David Fulcher.
If fans can remember how good these guys really were, then that's the best reason. Some of them were good enough to be talked about in Pro Football Hall of Fame circles.
"I don't understand it. One Hall-of-Famer in 50 years?" Montoya said with a shake of his head after this week's kick-off celebration. "After so many great players have come through here? I understand we lost the only two Super Bowls we were in. But my gosh. There are a lot of great players that have never been to a damn playoff that should be in the Hall.
"Look at Kenny Anderson's career. Isaac Curtis," Montoya said. "On this team there's definitely more than one."
"Kenny Riley," added his wife, Patty Montoya.
Max Montoya should be in there, according to the one Bengal who is, his left tackle from those two Super Bowls, the greatest offensive lineman who ever lived, Anthony Munoz.
There can be an argument made.
Montoya went to four Pro Bowls during his career that stretched from Cincinnati to Los Angeles during 1979-94 and played in 11 post-season games that included three AFC title games. Washington guard Russ Grimm also went to four Pro Bowls from 1981-91 and is in, probably because he played on three Super Bowl winners. So is Dolphins guard Larry Little, who went to five Pro Bowls from 1967-80, probably because he played on two Super Bowl winners.
"It's nice," Montoya said, "to be remembered as a good player."
Cincinnati Bengals announce their 50th anniversary at Paul Brown Stadium 4/20/2017
There will be a lot of remembering this year. With voting on Bengls.com through June 15, as well as from a media panel, the club plans to honor the top 50 Bengals throughout the season. Bengals president Mike Brown began it all this week at the 50's opening festivities when he saluted some of the alumni in the crowd and recognized Montoya as probably the best guard the franchise ever had.
If you know only Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler and Bobbie Williams and Eric Steinbach, meet Max Montoya Jr., UCLA, seventh round in the 1979 draft.
On the heels of Brown's declaration, Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham, the guard opposite Montoya in the first Super Bowl, observed, "Best pass blocking guard in the game."
He was also, as Brown revealed, "cute." Or so thought Brown's wife Nancy.
"One day she brought home a poster of Max," Mike Brown said to a roaring crowd. "I said, 'What are you going to do with it?' She said, 'I'm going to put it up.' I said, 'Well, you're going to put it up and I'm going to tell you where. In the closet.' "She thought Max was cute. I knew better . Max was cute, all right, but he had a mean streak this wide. He was a rough-and-tumble one."
The stories always flow when the guys get together.
That's another one of the best reasons to celebrate 50 years of Bengals. The stories. The Montoyas loved it. He knew Nancy was a fan and that Barbara Gregg, the wife of the head coach, was a big fan of Anthony. In fact, Patty Montoya fondly remembers going to the Browns' home with the other wives and making posters to hang at Riverfront Stadium on game day.
"The Mexican Connection," Patty remembers one Max-Munoz poster. "It was so much fun. She's a lovely lady."
"But I never heard that story," said a laughing Max Montoya. "That's a great story. It's kind of neat to hear the stories."
The really great story is how Brown and Montoya walked down memory lane together and, of course, they talked about 1990. That's when the Bengals didn't protect Montoya in Plan B free agency, opting to protect younger players and believing Montoya would stick around Cincinnati and the two restaurants he owned.
Not when the hometown Raiders back in Los Angeles offered Montoya what had been reported as $650,000. Maybe not double his pay in Cincy, but a sizeable enough increase that Montoya had no choice. After 11 seasons as a Bengal, he played his final five seasons for Al Davis.
But Brown had long ago shelved whatever feelings had been tapped in the moment.
"He was fantastic," Montoya said. "He said the same thing. 'I've always liked you.' I'm the same. He's a great guy. He does a lot of things out there that people don't see or realize. But business is business. It's a tough business."
Montoya, 60, is still a successful in business raising horses in Hebron, Ky. He was his own agent and though he was much younger, he never felt intimidated by Brown and then Davis.
"We were just talking about that business is business," Montoya said. "People don't realize that while football is a great sport and I was privileged to play it, in the end it's your job. It's how you make a living.
"When it gets right down to it, the money is spent, the money is gone. The negotiations are gone. The business end of it is done. Now as a player, it's the memories. The great stories from the guys."
"This is a great fraternity for you guys," Patty Montoya said.
And they could play.
That's the story.
Take a look at the 2017 Bengals schedule in pictures.