Homecoming 2000




Lions Legend Montgomery Turns 90

By Alex Sachare


Cliff Montgomery '34 was feted on the occasion of his 90th birthday at the Meadowbrook Club in Jericho, N.Y. Flanking him are (from the left) granddaughter Kate, son Cliff, grandson Tyler and daughter-in-law Peggy.

Cliff Montgomery '34, the first in a long line of great quarterbacks in Columbia history and captain of the Lions team that won the 1934 Rose Bowl, turned 90 on Sept. 17, 2000.

Montgomery was honored along with other members of Columbia's "Team of the Century" at halftime of the Homecoming game against Dartmouth on October 21.

Montgomery came to Columbia in 1930 at the same time as famed coach Lou Little, and four years later they celebrated the greatest triumph in Lions football history - the 7-0 victory over Stanford on January 1, 1934 in Pasadena, Calif.

The only score of the game came in the second quarter on a play known as KF-79, a deception play in which the Lions overloaded the line to the right and then ran a reverse. Montgomery (the K back in the play) took the snap, faked a handoff to halfback Ed Brominski '35 and barreled into the strong side, but not before deftly handing off to Al Barabas '36, the fullback (or F in the play's name). While Montgomery lured the defense to the right, Barabas broke through the undermanned left side and ran 17 yards for the score. Newt Wilder '34 kicked the extra point for the final tally.

Asked to reflect upon his career for Spectator's "Columbia's Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century" issue, it's no surprise that Montgomery pointed to that game as the high point.

Cliff Montgomery in his playing days.

"The Rose Bowl game stood out more than any other game," said Montgomery, who was named the most valuable player of the game. "We were an underdog, in fact an 18-point underdog. Nobody thought we had a chance."

Montgomery's Columbia varsity teams lost just three games in three years. Quarterback was a much different position at the time, since Little played a single-wing offense and the "kicking back," as the coach called the position, was expected to do a little bit of everything - running, passing and kicking. Field position was prized in those days, and teams often would punt on second or third down.

After one season playing professional football with the Brooklyn Dodgers (yes, there was a Dodgers football team in those days, and like the baseball team it played at Ebbets Field), Montgomery worked for the W. R. Grace steamship company, served in World War II and then became an advertising executive for McGraw-Hill. He also was a college football official for more than 25 years.

Elected to the National Football Hall of Fame in 1963, he is retired and living in Roslyn Heights, N.Y. A 90th birthday party was held in his honor on Sept. 7 at the nearby Meadowbrook Club in Jericho, N.Y.

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