The crowd of several thousand advisors at Tuesday’s Inside ETFs event in Hollywood, Florida, gave revered quarterback Joe Montana a standing ovation as he approached the stage to deliver his thoughts on leadership and sports.
Montana, 62, won four Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. In three of those games, he also won the Most Valuable Player award. He’s best known for leading the 49ers to 32 fourth-quarter comeback victories.
The NFL star, who played with the 49ers from 1979 to 1992 and the Kansas City Chiefs from 1993 to 1994, enjoys a second career in angel investing from his base in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he helps lead Liquid 2 Ventures.
“No one told me how hard it would be,” Montana said of investment work. He then shared stories from his football days and what he thinks of current NFL rules — and last month’s Super Bowl LIII.
The retired quarterback said that in high school, he dreamed of playing football for Notre Dame and turned down a scholarship to play basketball at North Carolina State.
“When I arrived at Notre Dame, there were seven freshman quarterbacks. You just never know what’s going to happen,” Montana said.
When asked about his best comeback and lessons learned from them, he responded, “I hate to lose — period — in anything.”
Turning to investing, he said that startups can hit bumps, too. “I’ve seen some of the toughest transitions. Even good investors in Series C funding — the third wave of financing — can lose 50% of a portfolio.”
Montana recalled a tough situation during the ’79 Cotton Bowl in Houston when there was ice on the field and tough conditions. “They put rock salt on some patches!”
But in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame came back as it had the wind direction in its favor. “It was an ugly game all around,” he recalled.
As for the NFL Scouting Combine, Montana said, “It’s hard to judge [players]. You just do not know who can make transition” to professional play.
The discussion then turned to 49ers Coach Bill Walsh and the West Coast offense he popularized, which encourages passing over running.
“We did not have a great runner” when they first worked together, Montana said. “We just kept pushing for four yards and high completion to get there. [New England Patriots QB] Tom Brady does the same.”
As for Walsh, “He was ahead of his time and had some crazy ideas come into his head now and then.”
Thanks to 49ers wide receivers Jerry Rice and John Taylor, who can easily make so many different plays, Montana says, “the game changed easily.”
Walsh kept players on their toes, according the Hall of Famer: “If Walsh put in [a new type of play], we went with it. You never know with plays. Sometimes they work, and sometimes it’s a mess and you have to get players to compensate.”
Turning to Rice, “The only bad thing is that he came along too late in my career,” Montana said. “He made the game different. He struggled at first, but after that the coach built him up.”
Rice’s work ethic was stellar, according to his former teammate. “Jerry would always go all the way with the touchdown in practice. He’s the all-time touchdown reception leader, and it’s no surprise.”