‘It’s very unbelievable’; Miami Valley natives on Bearcat’s roster for college football playoff

MIAMI VALLEY — Cincinnati is the first school not from a power conference to earn a spot in the college football playoff. There are 8 players from the Miami Valley on the Bearcats roster. For most of them it would have been hard to imagine they are where they are now when they were in high school.

“It’s very unbelievable,” Leonard Taylor, a Springfield grad and Cincinnati tight end, said. “I never thought I’d be here today in this position. Just me getting my degree last week, graduating college and just making great accomplishments in my life. Just making my family happy man. You can’t ask for more to be honest with you bro.”

>> Ohio sees highest 24-hour COVID-19 case count of entire pandemic

Taylor’s journey was especially unique. A multi-sport standout who played quarterback, tight end, and defense end for the Wildcats’ football team. Now he’s playing a big role in Cincinnati’s offense as a tight end. He’s spent a lot of time transforming his body too. Adding muscle and committing himself to the weight room to be ready to play this role for the Bearcats.

Franklin grad Ryan Montgomery had a memorable path too. His senior year of high school Montgomery tore his ACL which cast a shadow over how that may impact his future as an explosive playmaker. Montgomery has played as a returner for Cincinnati and is the number two running back on the team.

“Cincinnati and coach Fickell and coach Geno and coach Freeman, everybody recruiting me never wavered,” Mongtomery said. “Weren’t even as scared as I was about it. We had plans and we wanted to build up and build up. I don’t think five years ago you could predict to be even individually where I am now. It’s just been awesome to be a part of this ride.”

Now that they’re getting ready to play a game in front of tens of millions of people. It will be a bigger stage where they can represent both UC and their hometowns. They both have heard plenty of support from friends and family back home that are following their journey.

>> City responds to FAA’s plan to fine Dayton airport over $100,000

“Everyone back homes making sure I know they’re proud,” Montgomery said. “AAC Championship and the day after that was the playoff selection between those two days I heard from more people than I have all year.”

Montgomery and Taylor are embracing the chance to play against top ranked Alabama, the program that’s set the standard in college football for the past 12 years.

“I’m just so excited man to be honest with you man,” Taylor said. “I just want to go out there and stay calm and play my game and do the things I need to do to help my team be successful at the end of the day. Oh boy I’m so excited for this man. I can’t wait to be honest with you.”

Cincinnati will play Alabama on New Year’s Eve at 3:30pm. You can bet that not only will there be a special focus on the local players as the Bearcats try to pull of the upset. But there will also likely be plenty of people trying to make the drive to Indianapolis to see Cincinnati play in the national championship should they knock off Alabama in the semi-final.

James Rider

James Rider

I was born in Virginia and have moved several times in my life as a member of an Air Force family. I've lived in Virginia, California, Germany, England, and Ohio. I graduated from Centerville High School and then went on to attend Ball State University where I graduated with a bachelor's degree.