Montgomery given scholarship as video goes viral


Screenshot of Northwestern Athletics video

Senior guard James Montgomery III talks on the phone with his mother and sister after being told he will receive a scholarship for the 2013-14 season. Montgomery played the last two seasons as a walk-on.

Alex Putterman, Assistant Sports Editor

It’s been a good week for James Montgomery III. First the Northwestern senior received a hard-earned athletic scholarship, then he got 15 minutes of fame.

At a team meeting Thursday, coach Chris Collins surprised Montgomery by informing the former walk-on he will be on full scholarship for the current school year. Nearly a week later, a video of the announcement and Montgomery’s call to his family went viral on various sports websites.

The video, which NU’s athletic department shared on social media Tuesday morning, captured Collins praising Montgomery’s attitude and effort, then calling the guard to the front of the room and announcing the scholarship. Collins and Montgomery hugged as the team broke into applause and then mobbed the senior in celebration.

Montgomery was told a month earlier he would not be on scholarship.

“At first it was a shock,” he told The Daily on Tuesday. “And then I started getting emotional, and then it was gratitude (toward his teammates). It felt like they were just as happy for me as I was for myself.”

The camera was rolling again as Montgomery called his mother and sister. Upon hearing the news, both family members screamed, his mother breaking into tears and yelling into the phone.

“I like to make my mom cry with happy news,” Montgomery said. “I know it meant a lot to her, and it meant a lot to me.”

The video has exploded online, as national outlets including NBC, CBS, USA Today and Sports Illustrated posted stories about Montgomery on their  websites, with calling it “the best side of college sports.”

Montgomery’s climb to a scholarship was gradual. The guard failed to make the basketball team his freshman year, serving instead as a practice squad player for the women’s team. He walked on as a sophomore and junior, scoring 17 total points in 124 minutes.

“I had a passion for basketball and wanted to play at the highest level I could,” he said Tuesday.

Montgomery said he was surprised by the response the video got online but theorized that “the country likes hard-work stories.” He said he wasn’t totally aware of how far-reaching his story had gone until an athletic communications official told him when he got to practice Tuesday evening.

A mechanical engineering majorMontgomery has been taking out loans to pay tuition. With the financial burden lifted, he’ll treat himself to dinner and invite some teammates, “if they’re nice to me.”

Even before the video went viral, the senior said he enjoyed the aftermath of the scholarship announcement, thankful for the response from those around the athletic department.

“Everything was wonderful,” he said. “These past few days have really shown me what a great place Northwestern is.”

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Twitter: @AlexPutt02