How FPC’s Donovan Montoyo went from ‘just an athlete’ to becoming the Bulldogs’ dynamic starting quarterback.
Before every snap, Flagler Palm Coast quarterback Donovan Montoyo can hear the naysayers.
He’s just an athlete. He can only run. He can’t throw.
He’s been hearing the jeers and trash talk from his doubters ever since he first walked onto the field as a Bulldogs quarterback in 2017.
Those words, along with all the pressure that comes with being a starting quarterback for a high-caliber team, fuel him.
“I’m used to it now,” said Montoyo, who is entering his senior year at FPC. “It comes with being the quarterback. We’re going to put up a fight against anyone who faces us, and I’m going to prove all of those doubters wrong.”
Montoyo’s journey toward becoming the quarterback he is today has been a long one.
His talents at the position were first discovered by FPC offensive line coach Ward Silvola. Montoyo, who moved to Palm Coast from Long Island nearly a week after the start of the 2016-17 school year, was a wide receiver for the Bulldogs his freshman year. He rode the bench.
Three weeks before the start of spring practice, Montoyo was playing gator ball in his fifth period P.E. class. Silvola was impressed with Montoyo’s strong arm and called FPC’s new head coach, Travis Roland. Roland had new offensive coordinator Matt Johnson evaluate the freshman.
The footwork was inconsistent, his mechanics were funky and he lacked the knowledge of the position.
“But I saw light for him at the end of the tunnel,” Johnson said. “I thought he could play at the collegiate level if he committed to the process. And he’s been that guy ever since.”
Montoyo remembers his first high school snap at quarterback fondly.
It was in the Bulldogs’ season-opener against crosstown rival Matanzas on Aug. 25, 2017. Then-senior quarterback Ryan Freeman was the starter, so Montoyo didn’t think he’d make an appearance until late in the game.
However, Montoyo trotted out onto the field with about 2 minutes to play in the first quarter.
On the first play of the drive, Montoyo ran for a 23-yard touchdown. He was hit by several Pirates defenders at the 10-yard line, but he carried them into the end zone anyway.
“I wasn’t going to go down at all,” Montoyo said with a laugh.
Out of all the coaches on FPC’s sideline, the one Montoyo is closest with is Johnson — who in addition to being the offensive coordinator, doubles as the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks coach.
“He puts in so much time with me, helping me to be the best player I can be,” Montoyo said. “He’s like a second dad to me.”
Johnson doesn’t know how much time the two, as well as backup quarterback Preston Roberts, have spent together. “I don’t think you could log the hours,” he joked.
The process started with creating a solid base. Johnson drilled Montoyo repeatedly to help him develop consistent footwork. Then came the tweaking of his throwing motion — Montoyo used to cuff the ball in his hand when he’d throw — and getting him to understand proper weight transfer during passes. Finally, there was getting him to learn the game.
Montoyo studies film relentlessly.
“As a quarterback, you have to learn how to think, anticipate, lead,” Johnson said. “He started to learn those traits through the fire, and now we’re in a position of he’s understanding the coverages he’s seeing, he’s comfortable in the play book. He knows protections. He understands the type of ball to throw in certain situations. His progression has been exponentially great.”
Johnson believes the Bulldogs can, and will, go far this year with Montoyo leading the team in his final season.
“He wants to be the best,” Johnson said. “He works hard, he’s committed, he wants to please his teammates, he doesn’t want to let anyone down. Whatever you ask of him, he’s going to do and try to exceed at it.”