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Transcript: Christian Montano conference call 4/22/21

New Orleans Saints offensive lineman Christian Montano talked to the media after recently signing a contract with New Orleans, returning to the city after playing for Tulane in 2019.

New Orleans Saints Center/Guard Chris Montano
Video Call with New Orleans Media
Thursday, April 22, 2021

Opening remarks:
"I'm super excited to have the opportunity. I want to thank Mrs. Benson, Mr. Loomis for giving me the opportunity to join the team. It's been a long year to be stuck home not able to play football, but I'm super excited to finally get the opportunity again, and hopefully, I get a successful season."

Yeah, just basically, how did the whole getting an opportunity to sign with the Saints come about?
"Yeah, so obviously, last year was really weird with COVID and everything. So initially, I was supposed to have my Pro Day actually at the Saints facility last year with Tulane, as they do every year. That was washed because of COVID. And then I actually, the first time we really ended up talking again, was this past Pro Day for this year's class. So thankfully, they allowed me to come back there for it. Both Tulane and the Saints were okay with us coming back. The guys who graduated last year. And I did pretty well that day, which was three weeks ago now. And we kind of just started talking from there and this is where it led us."

And kind of as a follow up, obviously, I know the opportunity presented itself, but what about it made it one that you wanted to pursue?
"Yeah, definitely, to come back to New Orleans, a city I've really enjoyed being at for close to two years. And I was down there for my graduate program. It almost feels like a second home for me, being a guy from Connecticut. It's pretty far across the country, but I have some great friends down there and both on the actual football player side (and on the community side), the guys at Tulane were absolutely awesome. And then, just guys around Tulane's campus, I met good friends down there and kind of just enjoyed the city itself, so."

Do you feel better about the opportunity coming back to New Orleans, playing in the Superdome, you played for Tulane, how does that make you feel just coming back to this city?
"Yeah, it's funny you talked about playing in the Superdome. So, we use the Superdome at Tulane as actually a kind of an indoor practice facility for us during the season when it was a bad weather day. Obviously, the Saints were using their home practice facility. So, we would bus downtown and get to actually work out in the Dome early in the morning, seven, eight o'clock. So, it's hard not to think about that as a college player. Hey, what if I got the opportunity to play in here on Sunday and be the guys that are wearing the Black and Gold instead of the Green and Olive. So kind of like I said earlier, it's really like a home away from home. And it's something that you think about and almost like a fantasy as a college player and say, hey, man, this would be awesome for this to be my home, not just a place that I get to practice in. And so, it's really special in that sense for me. And then, just like I said earlier, to be around the guys that I have already been around, in a place that I have already been, that I know that I enjoy being there just makes it a little more special."

How familiar are you with the Saints' tendency to kind of treat everybody equal? Everybody starts on equal footing and is given those equal opportunities? And is that what made this opportunity the most attractive for you?
"Yeah, I think being the guy that I came from a small FCS school first before transferring to Tulane, I mean, having an equal opportunity is something that was important to me. Going from Brown to Tulane, I was looking for a spot where I wasn't gonna be in a massive detriment, being a guy that was just transferring in. And I think being with a team that values players for their potential and what they can grow into, rather than what they've accomplished so far, something that's really special to me. Since I know that I'm in one of the spots where I'm not necessarily the guy with the best resume so far or the most applicable experiences, but a guy who's willing to work hard and put the best foot forward once I get down there."

When you were going through the post-draft free agency process last year, were you in contact with the Saints at that point? Or was this kind of something that was new for you?
"A little bit of contact during the offseason, or during the in-season last year and a little bit before the draft, but nothing too major. I think what hurt me the most was not having the Pro Day and kind of being able to put on some impressive numbers for the scouts at the time last year. But, there was a little bit of an ongoing conversation, but nothing that ever really materialized it too much beyond that. I think it was tough just to be, for a lot of teams to bring guys in, knowing they had certain restrictions with COVID. I mean, I know workouts were significantly less than years previous. So, I think that it was positive but I wouldn't say it was anywhere near as significant as it was prior to the last couple weeks."

Yeah, just what do you feel you bring to this Saints' offensive line room and what are some of the things you've been working on to kind of prepare yourself for when you got this opportunity?
"Yeah so, I think of myself as a player who's smart, first and foremost. I think that you can develop strength, you can develop knowledge about things, but you kind of have to have a base level of that ability to learn things quickly. And I think that I am a pretty quick learner. And I think beyond that, just being a hard worker, I mean, I'm more than thrilled to be the first guy there in the morning, the last guy leaving at the end of the day. And I'm looking forward to getting down there. And hopefully soon, can kind of just prove that to the guys instead of just saying it. It's one thing to be able to say over a Skype call or a Zoom call, but to hopefully be able to get down there soon for voluntary workouts and get going before it's camp and anything like that, just to be able to kind of show my work ethic and my desire to be a part of this team. It's really what I want to be able to do the most."

What was that offseason like for you with the Steelers? And also what's it like playing college ball at Brown? What was that like?
"Yeah, so I'll start with Brown first, I absolutely loved it up there. It was a spot where it was great for me. I think as a high schooler coming out where it was about an hour and a half drive from home, for my family and friends to come up it was no problem at all. My family really enjoyed it. And I mean, everything about the school I really enjoyed. The coaching staff was awesome. The academic experience was absolutely awesome. But, it was kind of unfortunate at the time of how things ended. But I'm thankful for Coach Fritz and everyone at Tulane for welcoming me down there, once I kind of was at that sixth year of athletic eligibility. Steelers, it was awesome to be a part of their program also, but it was different. I mean, it was offseason and a preseason camp unlike any other year before with COVID. It was certainly strange to be doing voluntary or not voluntary, virtual installs over the internet, trying to learn the offensive playbook over Zoom, and the adaptations of that. But I mean, once you get there, football is football. The guys in the locker room are the guys in the locker room, and you kind of click a little bit better, of course, once you actually meet someone in person. So I'm super grateful for the opportunity to have been able to get out there and work with them. But, it was certainly shorter than I would have liked. And hopefully, this can be a bit more fruitful."

Christian, do you feel you're better at a guard position or center position?
"I think just from the volume of experience, I am probably a little bit more natural at center. I'm happy to flop in between the two, center and guard. But I think, just from the number of reps that I've had at full game speed, center would definitely be a little bit more of a natural position."

Yeah, just, you kind of touched on the Pro Day. And obviously, Jalen (McCleskey) also got his opportunity with the Saints from that pro day. Just how fortunate do you feel that, you know, you guys actually had that opportunity to go back and work out?
"Yeah, so Jalen, I mean, it's actually funny. So, we both transferred into Tulane, the same year. We were roommates for the entire year when I was down there. And then obviously, we spent a lot of time together outside of football. So Jalen is a pretty good friend of mine from my experience of playing football at Tulane. And it's funny, I remember texting him as soon as I saw that he signed with the Saints, and saying man, we had been having a pretty positive conversation up until that point. I said, man, it'd be pretty funny if I ever got the opportunity to play with him again, in the city of New Orleans again. So, now that it's here I couldn't be more excited for it. But, it's funny, Tulane posted a photo of me holding him up in the end zone, I think after we scored in the FIU game or the Houston game. And I commented, hopefully we will be able to do this soon. So, it's definitely something that I'm looking forward to again."

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