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Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Updated: November 16, 3:45 PM ET
6 days, 1 gamer

By Hallie Grossman
ESPN The Magazine

Sam Montgomery
Montgomery, a junior, has earned All-America honors and is LSU's most dominant player.

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Nov. 26 One Day One Game issue. Subscribe today!

Monday, Oct. 29

In Montgomery's 7:30 a.m. class, his communications professor rolls video of an Alabama politician. The player's mind wanders to the field.

"As soon as I heard 'Alabama,' I saw a highlight reel in my head. I saw the defense attack the ball and the crowd getting insanely hyped."

After two more classes (oceanography and landscape architecture) and two exams, Montgomery rushes to the practice field. The coaches drill him on shedding cut blocks, but not before zinging him for being late to practice.

"They yelled things like 'No way you make it through today!' But Mondays are really about easing in, getting warmed up and your head right for a week of practice and a big game on Saturday."


Tuesday, Oct. 30

No classes today, so it's off to tutoring sessions -- and inescapable reminders of the expectations ahead.

"The whole time, my tutor asked me about the game. 'Think we got Bama?' People invest all their emotions into it, so I try to give them a little scoop."

Montgomery estimates he is approached at least 20 times a day on campus.

"It's like being interviewed by the entire student civilization. Everybody just looks at you. You try to make yourself small, but you're so big it's tough."

Practice picks up in pace and contact. Even here, he seeks the spotlight.

"I love the up-tempo drill. There's not a lot of time on the clock, so you gotta move fast. It's a lot of pressure. I have grown to love pressure."


Wednesday, Oct. 31

With Alabama looming, practice speeds up. Coaches fine-tune hand placement, pass-rush technique and footwork. Montgomery senses the need for a little humor.

"I joke around with [DE Barkevious] Mingo, trying to make [D-line] Coach Haley laugh. The last time a player impersonated Coach Miles he got mad, so I'm gonna leave that alone."

Before hitting the sack at 11 p.m., video games provide an escape from football and a reminder. Montgomery likes Call of Duty but loves a certain hedgehog -- a Sonic poster over his bed, a Sonic backpack over his shoulder. It was the game he played with his older brother, John, who was fatally shot in 2007.

"It helps me keep him alive and keep him with me."


Thursday, Nov. 1

The day starts at LSU's rec center, where Montgomery spends nearly six hours observing pickup hoops for a leadership course.

"The student body gave me all they had, yelling and screaming at me, getting pumped. I couldn't get anything done."

As students get amped, practice intensity eases. Montgomery watches game tape, hits the weights and keeps his team on point.

"We just did shorts and shirts, a lot of running. I lifted for the first time since Sunday; today is about power. But I saved time for film work. So far this week, I've watched eight hours. I still have to tell some young guys this is serious. I'll give a little shove and say, I want you to know how much this means to us and how much it should mean to you."


Friday, Nov. 2

Bama's tight ends have been Montgomery's No. 1 priority in practice. Specifically that means the Tide's mammoth senior Michael Williams (6'6", 269).

"Their tight ends just dominate. When I look at their film, I focus on him especially."

At 3 p.m., he heads to the Cook Hotel for team meetings and meals. Other days, Montgomery will cook soul food, but before a game he watches his portions.

"I need more speed, so I'm going lighter -- probably one plate instead of three."

Lights out: 10:30.

"I laid there and thought about how last year at Bama was the most physical game all year. And what I had to sacrifice and what I need to do on Saturday."


Saturday, Nov. 3

The team leaves for the stadium at 3 p.m. Walking down Victory Hill, Montgomery blasts Waka Flocka Flame and Gucci Mane.

"In real life, I'm lackadaisical. I'm goofy. When I get on the field, I transform into a focused, determined killer. Being the first one to attack says more than any speech."

Montgomery had three tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and one tough defeat.

"It was a slow death. I guess you had to be out there to really know. Kind of like falling down a tunnel with a big smack at the end. But I still have a goal: teach the young guys and lead them to victory. I take losses on the chin and handle it. But it's not something I want to get used to. Ever."

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