Joe Montana was always “Joe Cool” on Super Bowl Sunday, winning four Super Bowl titles (XVI, XIX, XXIII and XXIV) and three Super Bowl MVPs with the San Francisco 49ers. With an unblemished 4–0 record and a perfect 11 TDs to zero INTs in the Big Game, Montana established himself as the standard by which all other QBs are measured when the Vince Lombardi Trophy is on the line.
These days, the 60-year-old Hall of Famer is a champion for “Breakaway from Heart Disease”, teaming up with AMGEN, the American Heart Association and Schwinn Bicycles to bring awareness to heart disease and promote heart health. We caught up with “The Comeback Kid” to talk heart health, Tom Brady, John Candy and Super Bowl traffic.
What is your favorite Super Bowl memory?
There are a lot of great memories through the years. But probably throwing a touchdown pass to John Taylor to win Super Bowl XXIII.
That’s the game-winning drive that started with you saying, “Isn’t that John Candy?” in the huddle, right?
I was telling one of our offensive tackles (Harris Barton) about it more than the team, because he was a people person. Every night the week of the Super Bowl, we were free for dinner and he’d come back and couldn’t wait to tell you — like a little kid — how excited he was about what celebrity (he saw). We were standing out there for a TV timeout for so long and I didn’t remember Harris talking about John Candy. He just happened to be standing on the sidelines and I saw him between two shoulder pads, and I thought he would appreciate it.
How did you stay so cool in pressure situations?
I just enjoyed competition. I don’t like to lose. And I was never afraid. I always wanted to have the ball in my hand. Growing up, I’d much rather be a part of it. Win or fail on me. I think you either like it or not. You like the pressure situations. Some people, doesn’t really bother them. (Tom) Brady is one of them.
Where do you think Tom Brady ranks all-time?
He might be the best one going. He’s played a long time. He’s in a little bit of a different era. It’s really hard to compare, when you look at the guys today. Not only from when I played, but if you go back and look at guys like Otto Graham and Sammy Baugh. They were so far ahead of their time. Had they been playing today, where you won’t take anywhere near as many hits, you can stay healthier, the rules are about throwing the ball instead of running it… Makes a big difference, so it’s really hard to pin who’s the top guy.
Brady admired you. What Super Bowl quarterback did you admire growing up?
Probably (Joe) Namath. Namath grew up in Beaver Falls, which is 20-30 miles from where I grew up (in Monongahela, Pennsylvania). He and (Terry) Bradshaw, because Terry went through a lot of tough times and then bounced back to win four Super Bowls.
Quarterback competition was a big part of your career. What are your thoughts on the Dak Prescott and Tony Romo situation in Dallas?
It’s a tough one because if Tony was younger, I would say it would be a competition. But Dak’s played pretty well, and it’s hard when you’re playing that well to go back. Even though Tony’s had great success, you don’t want to take the momentum from the team. The competition is always there, and I think Tony realizes that. Each situation is different in how it comes up.
Did you have a pregame routine before the Super Bowl?
I never took a lot of time to get dressed, so I was always getting on the last bus. And unfortunately for us going to the first Super Bowl (XVI), the Vice President (George H.W. Bush) was coming to the game and they stopped traffic everywhere. We were about a mile from the stadium. And once we got there, we had like 10 minutes to totally get dressed, taped, and out on the field for warmups. After that, as soon as I woke up on Super Bowl morning I’d head straight to the stadium. Even if it’s 6:30 in the morning and we didn’t play till 7:30 that night, I would get there as soon as I could.
Talk about Breakaway from Heart Disease…
(My wife) Jennifer and I are trying to bring awareness to heart disease. This is a great campaign that’s being put on, with AMGEN, the American Heart Association and Schwinn (Bicycles). It’s an awareness campaign. We’re trying to get people to understand the danger of heart disease. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol soon after I retired. It was tough to get my arms around at first because I thought this was a disease for a lot older people than I was at the time. I never thought I’d have high blood pressure or be at risk for heart disease.
What lifestyle changes have you made since then?
I think the one thing we all do in this country is we eat way too much food. The easiest way for me was to start cutting back portion sizes and slowing down my eating. My younger son and I, as soon as the food’s down, it’s gone! It’s almost like a race. It’s one of those things that you find if you slow down, you don’t need as much food. You give your stomach time to tell your brain that you’re full. Getting the saltshaker away from me has been the hardest part.