BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Sam Montgomery will hop around like a frog near the line of scrimmage if that's what it takes to fire up LSU's defense.
Once the center snaps the ball, the defensive end is as ferocious as he is goofy. He had 3 1/2 tackles for losses last weekend at Auburn, including a crucial safety in a 12-10 victory.
"If I come out cold, my defense will be cold. If I act like a normal football player, people notice that's not Sam Montgomery. If I act crazy, they're like, 'OK, he's his normal self,'" Montgomery explained this week as No. 3 LSU (4-0) prepared for Saturday night's home game against Towson (2-1). "So it's not only a responsibility for me to get mentally focused as an individual but also a team responsibility to bring some hype to the team."
Montgomery, an AP third-team All-American last season and a likely high NFL draft choice in 2013 if he chooses to turn pro, inspires teammates not just with the energy he brings but the sometimes odd or creative manner in which he expresses himself.
When asked what makes Montgomery unusual, fellow LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo began with a grin and the comment: "I could go on forever."
"He's a really interesting person. You see him on the field. You see him acting all crazy but like — he is crazy most of the time — but there are times when he can actually relax. He's just a character. You never know what he's going to do," Mingo said. "I really think he's in his own little world out there."
During halftime at Auburn last Saturday night, when LSU, a three-touchdown favorite, trailed 10-9, Montgomery delivered a passionate halftime speech in which he told his teammates they had to accept the fact they had been "punched un the mouth" during the opening half, and had to respond. The defense never allowed Auburn even another sniff at points, and Montgomery wound up being selected the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the week.
Montgomery said his energy comes from a philosophy developed while growing up with modest means in Greenwood, S.C. He saw friends and acquaintances dropping out of school or getting into drugs, and felt let down when people he cared about made those decisions. He decided his commitment to the people he loved, including his teammates, would come first.
"I never played for myself," Montgomery said. "I always played for Greenwood and along the way I met different types of people and I played for their dreams just to show them how much I care."
The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Montgomery expects to play in the NFL someday, and he expects to succeed in part because he has dreams beyond football that would become more attainable with the cache that comes from thriving as a pro athlete.