Gazing from a New York City hotel suite, 53 stories above a
gridlocked midtown Manhattan, Joe Montana surveys the commuters
below with the same sort of empathy that NFL fans felt for the
frustrated cornerbacks who had to defend against Montana's passes
during his singular 16-year career. Standing there, Montana,
still slim and athletic-looking, appears capable of lacing 'em up
and quarterbacking the San Francisco 49ers again. But when he
turns and walks to a couch, he does so gingerly and then sits
with a wince, rubbing his balky left knee. "Even today I have a
hard time accepting that I'll never play again," Montana, 48,
says. "But with my bad elbow and this knee bothering me, I'm
reminded why I won't. I guess I had a pretty good run."
In the nine years since his NFL run ended--he was a three-time
Super Bowl MVP and two-time league MVP--Montana has tried to fill
the void in a variety of ways. He took what seemed the natural
first step, a job as an NFL studio analyst with NBC, but quickly
realized that he wasn't cut out for it. "In TV, nobody cares if
you get it right; they just want you to yell, to seem definitive.
It was the old, 'If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, then
baffle 'em with b-------.' I had to go."
Montana left after one season and in 2000 joined former teammates
Ronnie Lott and Harris Barton in their Silicon Valley-based
fund-management company, Champion Ventures. Montana is a managing
partner and often works from one of two Northern California
residences he shares with his wife of 19 years, Jennifer, and
their four children (Alexandra, 18, Elizabeth, 17, Nathaniel, 14,
and Nicholas, 12). In addition to monthly speaking engagements he
has cultivated several private business interests; last October,
Montana, an avid pilot, invested in and joined the board of
Avocet Aircraft, a commuter-plane manufacturer.
He's also a spokesman for a high-blood-pressure awareness
campaign sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals, which was why he
was in New York City. "[My celebrity] can't help find a cure, but
it might get a few people to see their doctor," says Montana, who
during a routine physical in June 2002 was found to have high
blood pressure and was instructed to see a cardiologist
immediately. "I didn't pass Go, didn't collect $200," he says.
"It was bad."
And while he feels the pull of football on Sundays in the fall,
more acute are the throbs of his arthritic right elbow and left
knee. He has had arthroscopic surgery on that knee six times and
needs another procedure. Still, the 2000 Pro Football Hall of
Fame inductee harbors a desire to play even flag football. "I
just want a taste of the game," says Montana, who led the NFL in
passing twice and finished with 40,551 passing yards and 273
touchdowns. "I don't know if my area has any seven-on-seven
leagues, but I'd play if there were any." --Josh Elliott
COLOR PHOTO: ANDY HAYT (COVER) PASS MASTER An aching Montana is still aching to play.
COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY [See caption above]
A three-time Super Bowl MVP, Montana is a partner in a
fund-management group and raises awareness of high blood