At first glance, there's nothing special about Mildren Montgomery's nightstand.
A Bible and a clock radio sit on top, along with a cellphone and a few other personal items.
It's when Montgomery, a senior football player at Douglass High School, slides open the top drawer that his life's passion is revealed.
The drawer, which measures about 18 inches wide by six inches deep, is filled with LEGOs. Big, small, every color you can imagine.
At 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, Montgomery might seem out of place in a LEGO Store — which he still visits a couple times a month. It might seem odd that one of the state's top football recruits still plays with a child's building set.
But there's more to it than a teenager refusing to relinquish part of his youth. Montgomery's LEGO passion is much deeper.
Montgomery is committed to Texas Tech, where he plans to study architecture. Some future architects his age practice their craft with drawings or computer programs. Montgomery uses his LEGOs to construct the images he sees in his mind.
“My friends give me a hard time, asking me why I play with a child's toys,” Montgomery said with a laugh. “But when you see a building — the school we go to, our buildings that people work in — somebody had to have an idea for that design.
“Maybe they drew it or sculpted it out of clay. There's always been some kind of way for that person to get the idea out of their head to design that building. Maybe my way is more childish, if you will, but it gets the job done.”
Constantly seeking an outlet for the designs his mind creates, Montgomery is always building. Maybe he keeps it for a couple days. Maybe a couple weeks. But eventually, his structures come down so something else can be designed.
Montgomery figures his drawer full of pieces represents about one-third of the LEGOs he's owned. Many got lost or broken, or found their way to the trash can when his mother got tired of stepping over them.
But Montgomery's passion never faded. In sixth grade, when his parents didn't think he was old enough to have a cellphone, he built a flip phone out of LEGOs. It had numbers, a caller ID screen, the works.
A few years later, he designed a laptop computer that had all the keys of a regular keyboard, and could be folded up to pack in a bag. Most of the time, he sticks to houses or buildings or cars. But his LEGO-centric mind never stops working.
Of course, playing left tackle for third-ranked Douglass keeps him busy these days. He has to protect the blind side of sophomore quarterback Patrick McKaufman, and open holes for running backs Brandon Gaddis and Deondre Clark.
With the playoffs nearing, and the Trojans set on winning a Class 4A state championship, football comes first for Montgomery. Douglass visits Harrah on Friday night in a crucial game that could move them one step closer to a district title.
BUILDING A LEFT TACKLE
Montgomery's father is a builder, too — but a different kind.
Jon Montgomery made a career building offensive linemen. He was a college coach for two decades at places such as Cincinnati and Grambling State.
His son might be his most impressive design yet.
Obviously, Mildren would have been big, whether his father was a football coach or a computer engineer. You can't teach a kid to be 6-foot-5 with a 7-foot wingspan.
But Mildren has been learning the details of the left tackle trade since he was little.
“Mildren was sitting in meetings with my linemen since he was big enough to crawl up in the chair,” Jon Montgomery said. “Everywhere I've ever coached, he's been coming to practice with me, sitting in there watching film.
“When he was about 4, he came up to me and said, ‘Daddy when I get bigger, I'm gonna bwock.' He couldn't even say ‘block' yet,” Jon said. “So I told him to show me how he was gonna block, and he put his little right hand down on the ground. I said ‘No, no. You gotta put your left hand down.'
“He looked at me and I said, ‘One day you'll be glad I taught you that.'”
That day has arrived. Montgomery has been one of the most sought-after offensive linemen in the state this year, settling on Texas Tech last June. For two seasons he has anchored the Douglass offensive front.
“He has great feet for a kid with his size,” Douglass coach Willis Alexander said. “He's so long. He has the upside to be one of the best around here, one of the best to come out of this place.
“We continue to challenge him. The fact that he has to go up against (LSU commit) Deondre Clark in practice has been good for him. He's not a stranger to hard work, and he's very humble, nice, polite kid.”
And while his LEGOs — and greater architectural aspirations — will always be there, Mildren understands the opportunities football can offer in the more immediate future.
“My dad has always told me I had a body made for left tackle,” he said. “I've always seen myself as being the next Anthony Munoz. A great left tackle in college football, or maybe even in the NFL.
“And as all this has happened with recruiting and everything, I've started to understand what I can become.”