Fall 2021 SS Magazine

NFL Draft prospect David Montgomery trusting God, beating odds along with 7-year-old friend

Seven-year-old Hunter Erb and projected third-round draft pick David Montgomery were both told early in life they wouldn’t make it. Hunter was born prematurely with multiple congenital heart defects, and his parents were told he had a 3 percent chance of surviving his multiple health complications. David was told by his middle school football coach he would never make it to the NFL. Less than 1 percent of players do, the coach said. It’s a silly dream.

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But Hunter and David are beating the odds, together.

The two met when Hunter was invited to join an Iowa State Cyclones football practice in 2017, following a request from Hunter’s mother, Stephanie Erb. Hunter had always dreamed of scoring a touchdown. David was the lead blocker for Hunter on the day he did, and in that moment, David told ESPN he felt God speaking to him.

“Once he scored, I got a thought in my head that God was pulling me toward him,” David said. “I needed to extend myself to talk to him more.”

David connected with the Erb family and asked if he could visit Hunter in the hospital while he was receiving intravenous shots. David held Hunter’s hand as he cried from the shots being administered, and the two have been close since.

“Next thing you know, they are coloring in coloring books,” Stephanie told ESPN. “To see this big football player, he’s pretty much wrapped [around Montgomery’s finger]. They connected. We say it was God’s plan.”

Montgomery’s heart for underdogs like Hunter comes from his own background. He was raised by a single mom in Cincinnati, in poverty, surrounded by violence. He credits both football and the legacy of his mom’s faith for protecting him from the temptations around him.

Montgomery was barely recruited out of high school, but made an impression during his time with the Cyclones. He is leaving Iowa State after three years at No. 6 all time in rushing yards with 2,925. According to Mel Kiper’s and Todd McShay’s latest mock draft, Montgomery is projected to be drafted in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft, which begins Thursday.

Off the field, Montgomery worked with special needs children through Iowa State’s Victory Day Initiative and he was a semifinalist for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award.

On Twitter, Montgomery effusively thanks God, saying “all in God’s timing” in his bio, which is accompanied by a picture of Psalm 27:1-2: “The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?”

Hunter, meanwhile, keeps fighting and believing. Stephanie posted a video to her Twitter account last October showing Hunter playing football in their house, and she continues to place her trust in God’s plan, whatever that holds.

“You have to be a fighter,” Stephanie told ESPN. “It’s not an opt-out program. I believe God has a plan, but it may not always be our plan. You have to flow with it. It’s one thing to say you trust God, but it’s another to put all of your faith in Him to take care of things. As a mom, I take care of the possibles and trust God with the impossibles.”

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