NewsAug 09, 2019

Player Profile: Callum Montgomery

For British Columbia native Callum Montgomery, becoming a professional soccer player wasn't something he always thought was in his future. However, with the support of his family and a successful college playing career under his belt, the defender was selected 4th overall in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft by FC Dallas. Callum spoke with the PA about his journey to MLS and how he's making the most of his time with his new team.

You didn't always think you would be a professional soccer player, what was your path to MLS like?

Honestly, growing up I didn’t think I had a chance to ever play professional soccer. I thought I missed it, just with coming from a smaller community. I grew up in Nanaimo, BC, which is on Vancouver Island. It’s a small town and there’s not really any high level soccer there. I grew up playing through the rec teams and then in grade ten it got to the point where I was driving three to four days a week to play in Victoria. It was an hour and a half each way, so that was a lot on my parents. Because of that, we made the decision that I would move to a boarding school in Victoria for my junior and senior years of high school.

While I was in boarding school, I played for the Victoria Highlanders U21 team. We played in a men’s league on the island and then would do trips to various academy teams, but we didn’t have the money to actually play in the academy system.

I was fortunate from there that I got the opportunity to play college soccer at UNC Charlotte, they were the only school that offered me a scholarship out of high school, other than that I was only really looking at Canadian options. I knew I wanted to get down to the states just to get into the NCAA, because they have more opportunities that can lead to making a professional team. I was lucky enough to have a really good college career and then it all became a reality.

When did your mindset shift to realizing that you had a chance to go pro?

When I got to college, I was asking the other freshmen what they wanted to do and they were saying ‘I want to play professionally.’ I realized that if I was there with them and that was their goal, then I had a chance. I was never part of an MLS academy or invited to the Whitecaps tryouts or anything along those lines. I was never making the provincial teams, I was just on the cusp. I played other sports like basketball, but I never thought that I was going to be good enough to make it pro. I was fortunate that I had a good freshman year and became a starter and that’s really when I think my mindset shifted. I realized that if I really put my heart into it, I could make it. I had great coaches that helped me along the way and had a lot of people in my corner. I was really lucky.

How much has the support from your parents and family meant to you throughout this process?

My parents used to go in to work early so that they could get me down to practice. They put in tons of hours driving and then they let me leave home early so I could play at a higher level. They sacrificed tons for me and I’m really grateful. I’m also really fortunate that I had the ability to be able to go to a boarding school because of how hard they worked.

My parents always prioritized my education first, it was expected that I go to college and get a degree in whatever I was passionate about. They always wanted me to be well-rounded and encouraged me to play sports outside of soccer too. I skated, I played basketball, did track and field, I swam. I played piano. They always emphasized that they wanted me to be well-rounded and that had a really positive impact on my life.

What has been the biggest adjustment going from playing in college to being with FC Dallas?

It’s been the style of play. I think I’m generally a very good defender, but the area I need to work on is my ability on the ball. Coming to a team like Dallas with their style of possession, it made that jump bigger than I think if I went to some other teams. It’s always difficult for the first couple of months when you go somewhere new just to meet new people and get adjusted to the culture of the city and teammates. You have a whole new structure to your day. It’s also an adjustment from college, where you are so busy and are struggling to get an hour to watch an episode of Netflix before bed. Now, you finish practice at one in the afternoon and you have the rest of your day to do whatever you want.

You have been using a lot of that downtime to help the team off the field, why is that important to you?

I look at this as my full time job, and while I want to get my name out there, I also want to be an important part of the FC Dallas community. I want to contribute to the team and the brand of FC Dallas. I haven’t been playing as much as I’d like, so I have been trying to find other ways to be involved with the team. I always ask them and let them know that I’m happy to help with a video or anything that they need. FC Dallas has given me this opportunity, so I want to give back to them. Plus, I enjoy doing it and it’s really fun to get out there and help them.

How do you manage your mindset as you work towards becoming a starter?

It can be difficult. I got picked pretty high in the draft, so I think you set expectations on yourself about how much you want to be playing and how you want to be playing. Coming to Dallas, we have some elite center backs. All-Star Matt Hedges, two time World Cup player Reto (Ziegler), Bressan, they all have tons of experience. So, I’m behind three pretty elite guys which can be difficult, but at the same time it’s amazing to get to learn from them and to know that my time might not be right now, but when I get my chance I have to be ready. In the meantime, I want to make every day count and make sure that I’m putting myself in the best place to succeed when I do get that opportunity. I take every game I get with the USL team as a development opportunity and a chance to work on what I’m practicing with the first team. Even though I’m not playing with those guys, it’s the same concept. I just try to stay positive and know that these are steps towards me becoming a starter in the league some day.

Who do you look to as a mentor?

There have been a lot of guys who have helped me along the way. Reto and Matt are both awesome examples and great guys to watch on the field. They are always open to me asking questions, listening to me, and giving me pieces of advice. Ryan Hollingshead has been awesome on and off the field with giving me advice too. Whether it be financial or what to do with your spare time, little things to learn about the MLS. He’s always there to help me with anything really. It’s been awesome to be able to train with Matt and Reto because I think they are two of the better center backs in the league and I feel lucky that I get the chance to play and compete with them every day.

What’s been your favorite moment from your time with Dallas so far?

When I made the travel roster to Vancouver, because I grew up going to watch games at BC Place. Getting the opportunity to be on that field was pretty cool because growing up I had dreamt of that moment. That was pretty surreal and I had a lot of friends and family in the stands. I didn’t get in, but it was still an unbelievable moment to be in that stadium, on that field, kicking a ball around.

You can follow Callum on Twitter and Instagram.