Montgomery Preparing to Replace Mississippi Coaching Legend MC Miller
Randal Montgomery is looking forward to plenty of things about his new job. Earlier this offseason he was abruptly let go at Columbus, but he quickly bounced back taking a job as offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting at Louisville.
MC Miller - who enters his ninth season this fall at Louisville - has roamed the sidelines some four and a half decades, but 2018 will be his final year. Miller claimed state titles in 2008 at Noxubee County and in 2013 with the Wildcats.
“Coach Miller has probably forgotten more football than I know at this time,” Montgomery told SES Mississippi. “More than anything, I just look forward to listening to his stories and learning from him.”
“One of the most important things I’m looking forward to is the opportunity to take a step back from the head seat. It gives me an opportunity to kind of refresh myself, spend more time with my family, and, more importantly, learn under a guy who was coaching football before I was born.”
Taking a step back, Focusing on Offense
Stepping back from the everyday challenges of being the head coach also means that Montgomery gets to plug in fully to what the offense is doing.
If there’s one thing his teams have done at each stop along the way, it’s score.
“I’m a guy that knows you have to adapt to the type of kids that you have,” He explained.
“Fortunately for me, I’ve always been able to have the same kind of athletes. I’ve always been fortunate to have a quarterback that runs pretty well. So I haven’t had to change my offensive philosophy that much because I’ve always kind of had the personnel to run the offense I wanted.”
Montgomery has made stops at Canton, Velma Jackson, Hazlehurst and Columbus in his coaching career. He played for and graduated from what is now known as Wesson Attendance Center. All in total, those programs combine for two state titles all time - both from Hazlehurt and one of which he won.
Now he steps into a program that is home to eight state titles. Not only is it expected that he will inherit the kind of personnel to run his offense, but the kind of talent that can win state titles like he did in his time at Hazlehurst.
Facing adversity, Growing as a coach
But while his offenses have rarely had to evolve or change, Montgomery has certainly has had to as a head coach. First, it was going from a 3A program to a 6A program.
“I just saw it as an opportunity to coach 6A football. That’s really what I looked at it as, a challenge for me to go in and build a program,” He said about taking the Columbus job back in 2014. “When you go from 3A to 6A you have to be more of a manager than you do at the 3A level. You have more players and more coaches to have to deal with, so you really have to bring the ability to be a manager.”
He coached three seasons at Hazlehurst - appearing in the 3A state title game all three years - before taking the head job at Columbus. He reached the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, marking only the second time the Falcons had every made back-to-back playoff appearances.
Still, after losing the final six games and finishing 2-9 last season he was let go.
“I’ve always been the type of person that just believes that when one person closes a door there’s another one that’s going to reopen for you,” Montgomery said. “My faith never wavered. It would have been easy for me to just go into a ‘poor me’ situation where I started to feel sorry for myself, but I really did believe everything happened for a reason.”
“I can say confidently that I’m a better football coach for going 20-26 at Columbus, than I ever will for going 43-4.”
Miller, as well as the administration at Louisville, thought so, too. So they didn’t let a coach like Montgomery sit on the open market for long.
“This opportunity kind of fell into my lap. It’s kind of strange how it happened, but I was riding down the road one day and got a phone call from coach Miller. We talked about it, then I talked to the principal about it and it kind of just went from there,” He noted.
“There’s a ton of other people in this state Coach Miller and Louisville could’ve reached out to. For him to choose me, I’ve just really got to go in there and get on the ball just because of that.”
Remembering a special run
Not only did he take Hazlehurst to three consecutive MHSAA 3A title games, but he won it all in 2012. On top of that he compiled a 43-4 record, with two of those losses by one point and another by just two points.
It was a truly special run, matched by very programs across the state of Mississippi.
“I was blessed with a lot of really good players. They were really hard-nosed players, that enjoyed playing the game of football. That’s all they really wanted to do was play football,” Montgomery said.
“The biggest memory I take away from that was the championship we won in 2012. To be able to come back with the focus that those guys had after we lost in 2011. They knew we would be the frontrunner because we had just as good of a team coming back. Just the focus that those guys had to take everybody’s best shot every night. The work ethic they had to come in and work every day is one of the things I’ll remember the most.”
Coaching only option Montgomery considered after playing days
The love for football inside of him, Montgomery says, was too strong to ever consider giving it up. So following the end of his playing days, he knew coaching was his only ticket to sticking around the game.
“I love the game of football. I had an opportunity to play, and once I saw that closing I knew there was nothing else I really wanted to do because I love the game of football that much. I knew if I wanted to stay around football there was really only one other thing I could do and that was coach,” He explained.
“I was blessed with a great group of coaches coming up and I just saw what they did with me using the game of football. So I just basically wanted to follow in their footsteps and be the type of coach they were to me. Just use the game of football to teach young men about life.”
Montgomery will spend this season soaking up as much knowledge as he can from the legend he will follow. While also using all that he has learned to do the best job he can. Not only the best job of putting points on the scoreboard and managing one of the state’s most storied football programs, but of mentoring young men.
For Montgomery, it’s humbling to be following a legend. For Louisville, it’s reassuring to know that Miller hand-picked the man he sees fit to build on what he’s done.
**Photos courtesy of Keith Warren, MHSAA