Dick Coury, a longtime NFL coach for the Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers, said the late Donald Montrose, former Catholic bishop of the Stockton Diocese, gave him his first job.
When Coury graduated from Notre Dame University, Montrose was the athletic director of Mater Dei High School in Southern California. He was hired in 1953 as an assistant football coach and later moved up to head the program. Under Coury's stint as head coach, the team won the California Interscholastic Federation championships in 1956, 1957, 1960 and 1965. He also coached 1964 Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte.
"(Montrose) coached my B football team for me," said Coury, 78, who retired from coaching nine years ago. "Had he not gone into the priesthood, he would have been an NFL coach; he was that good.
"He had a way with players to get on 'em and pat 'em at the same time. He was a people person. He was able to get his points across, and some of his players still talk about him."
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A funeral vigil for Montrose will be held at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Our Lady of Fatima in Modesto. After an overnight private prayer vigil at the Sisters of the Cross, a cloistered order brought to Modesto by the former bishop, his body will go to the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton. A funeral Mass will be held there at 1 p.m. Monday, followed by his burial in San Joaquin Catholic Cemetery.
Coury said he will attend the vigil in Modesto, as well as the funeral Mass in Stockton. "He was an unbelievable man."
Coury said he was basically hired over the phone but has a letter from Montrose confirming he would be the assistant football coach that first year, as well as coach of the junior varsity basketball and varsity baseball teams. Coury also taught math. His total annual salary was $2,500.
"But he said he would be able to get me a good summer job," Coury said. "I'd never been to Los Angeles. I'm an Ohioan. My summer job was driving a beer truck for a distribution center. It was a good job with union pay. I called him and said, 'The job you got me is truly a great job. It pays so much, I may not be able to coach anymore.' He laughed."
Coury said Montrose called throughout his career to keep in touch and visited the coach when the Eagles were in Los Angeles to play the Rams.
During his Eagles stint, Coury coached Vince Papale, the 30-year-old walk-on player who was the subject of the inspirational movie "Invincible."
It was after retirement that Coury, who also was head coach of the USFL Boston/New Orleans Portland Breakers and the Portland Storm of the World Football League, saw Montrose more frequently.
"He'd walk out (of his retirement complex in Stockton) and meet us and we'd go get lunch or something. He was really humorous; he'd tell funny stories when my wife and I would visit. But the last time, we saw him about a month ago, we thought maybe he didn't recognize us, but when we said, 'Mater Dei,' his eyes would light up.
"We have a lettermen's club of players I coached (there). We brought him down in '06 and had a big reception with players and parents. He was well-loved."
Our Lady of Fatima is at 505 W. Granger Ave. Bishop Montrose's body will be open to viewing from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, with the funeral vigil at 7:30 p.m.