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Joe Montana, born in 1956, is a Pro Football Hall of Famer, who is considered among the best quarterbacks to ever play professional football. He is a perennial fan favorite, particularly among 49ers fans, where he spent most of his professional career. Retired since 1995, Montana resides in his adopted home of Northern California, where he and his wife Jennifer parent their four children, and where Montana has opened or invested in several companies, including his own winery Montagia.
Montana is the son of Sicilian immigrant parents, and his last name is a corruption of the Italian name Montani. Early in life he showed an interest in sports, particularly baseball, but it was to be football that would win him extraordinary accolades. He played high school football before attending college at Notre Dame University. Initially, he wasn’t considered much of a catch as football player, particularly in his first year, when Notre Dame’s famous coach, Ara Parseghian, stewarded the team. He began on the seventh string, and it didn’t look likely he’d see much game play in his college years.
This changed dramatically, when Dan Devine took over the coaching position at Notre Dame in 1974. Devine immediately saw the extraordinary gifts of Joe Montana, and he was at least taken off the seventh string, and invited to come in as replacement quarterback in several games. Joe Montana earned one of his many nicknames in his first few games, usually by entering the games in the fourth quarter. For instance, against the University of North Carolina, with a little over five minutes left of game play, and North Carolina up by eight points, Montana managed to end the game with a Notre Dame Victory, beating NC by seven points.
Then again coming into the game against Air Force in the fourth quarter, and down 20 points against the team, Montana rallied his team to victory — scoring three touchdowns in the last quarter. He earned the nickname “the comeback kid” for these impressive performances. This nickname would stay with him and continue to be applicable when he joined the 49ers in 1979.
Though Joe Montana had created some impressive victories at Notre Dame, he was only a third round draft pick. He spent much of his time in his first year on the 49ers as a secondary quarterback to Steve DeBerg. In 1980 he became the starting quarterback mid-season, but the overall season was unimpressive from a win/lose standpoint. In 1981 however, he finished the regular season with an impressive 13 wins for the 49ers. But it was 1982 when the “magic” really happened, catapulting Joe Montana to household name status.
In the NFC championship, against the Dallas Cowboys, and six points behind, Montana threw an impossible throw, which many would have considered uncatchable. Nevertheless Dwight Clark leaped for the ball and caught it in the end zone. A successful extra point kick won the game, and brought the 49ers to the Super Bowl, where the 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals and Montana won the Super Bowl MVP award.
In the 1980s, Joe Montana would win two more Super Bowl MVP awards, would participate in six Pro Bowls as a quarterback (with seventh and eighth appearances in 1990 and 1993). He also won all four Super Bowls, in which the 49ers participated, including back-to-back victories in Super Bowls XXIII and XXIV. Injury in 1991 forced Montana to miss the entire 1991 season, and his job as starter was given over to Steve Young. Instead of remaining with the 49ers, Montana signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993, and played part of the 1993 season and most of the 1994 season, including an appearance in the playoffs, where the Chiefs lost to the Miami Dolphins.
In 1995 Joe Montana returned to San Francisco to officially announce his retirement, and though many of his records have since been surpassed, some of them by his 49er replacement Steve Young, he still holds an extremely special place in the hearts of football fans. He remains the only player to win three MVP awards at the Super Bowl, and he’s associated with the “golden” days of the 49ers, when they went from a simple football team to worthy champions.