CHURCH STRETTON, England
Lee Montgomery Jr., a 1963 Georgia football letterman, had lived in London for almost 10 years when he and his wife Katie decided that if they were to remain in the United Kingdom, it would be nice to move to the country.
They began to explore the countryside on the edge of Wales and first looked around in Shrewsbury; while it wasn’t anything like London, there was traffic and congestion, nonetheless. Taking a country road 13 miles from there, they arrived in Church Stretton.
“This is it, this is where we need to be,” Montgomery said aloud, literally within minutes.
Now, after a decade in this charming community he has come to love — and two decades in the United Kingdom — another move is about to happen. He’s returning home to the United States to be close to his family in retirement.
A native of Jacksonville, he and Katie will settle in Tallahassee, where there are grandchildren.
Montgomery has spent the past 10 years teaching English in the public school system in Church Stretton. But he often reflects on his early years in Jacksonville, where he was the son of a struggling carpenter who was a keen sports fan.
His family lived near the Gator Bowl, and his father was always taking him to high school games on Friday night. Once, while walking to a game, his dad asked what he wanted to do in life, and the son replied, “I’m going to go to college.”
Montgomery had learned that the men in his community who had college degrees wore suits and ties and had inside jobs. The men in his family and on his street wore work clothes, got their hands dirty and did their best to provide the basics for their families. There were few, if any, fringe benefits.
The senior Montgomery, after hearing Lee’s plan for the future, said as the game got underway, “See those boys down there on the field playing football? If you play football and get good enough, you can go to college for free.”
At the time, Montgomery didn’t appreciate his father’s grasp of the real world. The father knew that he could not underwrite the cost of an education for his son. He was, however, appreciative of his son’s goal and ambition; he wanted him to understand that the best way he could achieve his goals was through football.
“That is why you will always hear me paying tribute to the University of Georgia,” Montgomery said. “That scholarship meant something, and I will never forget it. When I hear someone say ‘Georgia,’ I say, ‘Amen.’ A man who had the experience I had and is not grateful is a man who has a problem.”
Over dinner at a place called “The Armory” by the River Severn in Shrewsbury, Montgomery reflected on his time in Athens and his continued interest in the University of Georgia and the Bulldogs.
“I wouldn’t take anything for the experience I have had over here, but it will be nice to spend time in the fall between the hedges,” he said. “There is not a lot of college football news over here, and you appreciate it when you can find a game on TV — even if it is at midnight.”
Montgomery is always eager to reminisce about his days as a Bulldog.
“I love recalling my years in Athens,” he said.
He lined up at guard and linebacker in the 1963 Georgia-Miami game when Larry Rakestraw set the NCAA single game passing record (25-for-38 for 407 yards) as the Bulldogs whipped the favored Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl, 31-14.
The game he remembers best, however, was the annual Thanksgiving Day Scottish Rite game between the freshmen of Georgia and Georgia Tech. The game ended in a 22-22 tie, but Montgomery blocked the Tech field goal attempt that kept the Bullpups from losing the game.
“I look back on football fondly,” he said. “Without a scholarship, I would never have gotten a degree. Without a degree I would never have explored my horizons, which means I would never have the experience of living in a foreign country — which has been so illuminating.
“I owe it all to Georgia.”
Loran Smith is a contributing columnist for The Daily Citizen. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CHURCH STRETTON, England
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