Joe Montana Sr., the father of the former 49ers great who once was described as the quarterback’s best friend, died Tuesday, according to multiple sources. The elder Montana, 85, had been living on his son’s estate in Calistoga.
In 1986 Montana Sr. and his wife, Theresa, moved from Monongahela, Pa., to San Mateo to be closer to their only child, who was in his eighth season with the 49ers and who already had won two Super Bowls.
Montana Sr. had been a manager at a finance company in the Western Pennsylvania town where their son was an excellent football and basketball player. The couple later lived in Calistoga. Theresa died in 2004 after a fight with cancer.
“They taught me to never quit and to strive to be my best,” Montana said of his parents during his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000. “... They were always there. They took me where I wanted to be, where I needed to be and got me there on time and made tremendous sacrifices to make sure I had things that they never had.”
According to biographies about the 49ers quarterback, his father was integral to nurturing his love of sports. The two played catch in the backyard in the evenings, a connection Montana Sr. said he never had when he was a boy.
“Maybe that’s why I got Joe started in sports,” he told Sports Illustrated in 1990. “Once he got started, he was always waiting at the door with a ball when I came home from work.”
Another anecdote said that Joe Sr. doctored his son’s birth certificate so that Joe could play little league football with the nine year olds even though he only was eight. The same Sports Illustrated piece quoted Montana Jr.’s roommates at Notre Dame who said the quarterback’s father sometimes would show up in the middle of the night – an eight-hour drive from Monongahela – and take the boys out for food.
“The fact is, his father was his best friend,” said Steve Orsini, Montana’s former teammate.
“What I really wanted to do was make it fun for him,” Montana Sr. was quoted as saying. “And I wanted to make sure he got the right fundamentals. I read books. You watch some quarterbacks, sometimes they need two steps to get away from the line of scrimmage. I felt the first step should be straight back, not to the side. We worked on techniques, sprint out, run right, run left, pivot and throw the ball.”
“You know, I’ve been accused of pushing him. I don’t think that’s right. It’s just that he loved it so much, and I loved watching him. And I wanted to make sure he learned the right way.”
Montana Sr. is survived by his son, his daughter-in-law, Jennifer, and four grandchildren.