Free & clear: Bears RB David Montgomery refreshed as he emerges from depression
“I masked it for a while,” Montgomery said as he revealed his battle Wednesday. He was relieved, though, that “it’s on the up-and-up now, and I’m grateful and I’m blessed that God brought me here.”
David Montgomery has faced plenty of frustration throughout his Bears career. The losses have piled up, and he often has found his own performances not good enough.
That wore him down and led to depression, Montgomery revealed Wednesday, and it was a lonely, laborious journey before he began emerging from it this year. He credited God and the joy that came with finding out he’d soon become a father for his mind to begin clearing up.
“It had nothing to do with the coaches; it was more so with myself, not having met the standards or the expectations that I put on myself, going back to creating those unnecessary pressures for myself,” Montgomery said. “We go through a lot of mental battles on a daily basis, but since we’re athletes and we get a lot of money, that gets overlooked. We’re still human beings, and people forget about that.
“For a while, I masked it. I could not continue to live my life unhappy, so I was just in a bad place mentally. But it’s on the up-and-up now, and I’m grateful and I’m blessed that God brought me here.”
Montgomery seemed refreshed as he explained his experience. His faith is strong, and he’s ready to push forward as he enters his fourth season.
Given how bleak the last three were, it’s understandable that he got derailed.
The Bears arrived at training camp in 2019 thinking they were headed toward the Super Bowl, and Montgomery landed in what looked like an ideal situation. Clouds formed quickly, however.
The Bears staggered to an 8-8 record that season and the next, formulating an ominous feeling that the team was headed the wrong direction and jobs were at risk. They collapsed at 6-11 last season and fired coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace.
It had to be jarring for Montgomery coming off back-to-back winning seasons at Iowa State and a collegiate career in which he racked up 2,362 yards and 24 touchdowns over his sophomore and junior seasons.
Between the Bears’ overall offensive dysfunction and personnel deficiencies, he hasn’t been nearly as productive in the pros. He had just two 100-yard rushing games as a rookie and seven in 44 games for his career. Montgomery didn’t point the finger anywhere other than himself, and the stress swelled.
He knew he could be better, and that thought appeared to be part of what sent him spiraling mentally. He thinks he’s free from that now.
“When you don’t have anything to grasp onto or believe in, it becomes a lot harder and creates unnecessary pressures,” he said when asked about leaning on his faith. “Up to this point of my life right now, that’s all I’ve done. It’s always creating unnecessary pressures for myself.
“Sometimes it can be mentally daunting. It can be painful mentally. When you’ve got God and you’re really relying on him, the pressure that you thought you had just disappears.”
Montgomery seems to have discovered at 25 that football doesn’t define him, which can be a challenging concept for any athlete, but it doesn’t mean he’s checking out. Far from it. He sounds more driven than ever.
Coach Matt Eberflus described him last week as an absolute pro, calling him “a very serious-minded kid, and he is all business. He’s real consistent.” Montgomery responded by expressing how determined he is to make the most of his opportunity in the NFL.
Financially, and for the sake of solidifying his career, he has a lot on the line. He’ll be a free agent in March, and — more than any other position — running backs must prove themselves indispensable to land big contracts.
That’s the goal, and there’s no doubt Montgomery realizes it. But he isn’t consumed by it. And, incidentally, the freedom from being submerged in expectations and scrutiny should help him get there.