CLIFF MONTGOMERY

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CLIFF MONTGOMERY
football

inducted February 18, 2006

Cliff Montgomery called hundreds of plays during his years as Columbia’s quarterback. But Columbia football fans know only one — the most famous combination of letters in Lion athletics annals.

Cliff Montgomery didn’t throw the ball on the play known as KF-79, he didn’t run with it and he didn’t score on it. But it will be intertwined with his name as long as Columbia football lives.

"Monty" led a remarkable life that saw him quarterback a Rose Bowl champion, play in the NFL, earn the Silver Star in World War II, serve 25 years as a college official and earn a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Montgomery's teams lost just three times in his three varsity seasons under new coach Lou Little. He concluded his career by earning the Rose Bowl Most Valuable Player award on January 1, 1934 when Columbia upset Stanford, 7-0.

KF-79 was the play Little sent in with the game still scoreless in the third quarter and KF-79 is what Montgomery called in the huddle. He took the snap from center and started right — as did the entire Columbia team, save tailback Al Barabas, who took the handoff and sped around left end on the famous "naked reverse" for the game’s only touchdown.

Also in 1934, he competed in the first collegiate All-Star football game, in which a collegiate all-star squad tied the NFL's Chicago Bears — led by Red Grange — 0-0.

Montgomery went on to play professional football for the Brooklyn Dodgers for one year following graduation. He served in the Navy in World War II and attained the rank of lieutenant commander. He is credited with saving the lives of 400 sailors at Okinawa on April 6, 1945.

The commander of a group of close-in fire support ships, he brought his flagship alongside a burning destroyer in rough seas to bring the sailors aboard before the destroyer exploded, according to the then-Secretary of the Navy. Montgomery was awarded the Silver Star for his actions.

Following his military service, Montgomery was a college football official for more than 25 years; he officiated five Army-Navy games, but never a Columbia game. He also coached local football teams on Long Island and was an advertising executive for McGraw-Hill before retiring in 1972.

In 1963, he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. He was chosen to Columbia Football's "Team of the Century" in 2000. In 2003, he was an honorary Lion captain for Columbia's Homecoming game in which the Lion team wore replica jerseys modeled after the 1933 team's uniform.

Montgomery met seven United States Presidents during his lifetime, starting with Calvin Coolidge.

Montgomery passed away April 21, 2005 in Mineola, N.Y., not far from his home in Roslyn Heights. He was 94.

 

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