The Orange Leader
Vidor High School can proudly say it is home to The Orange Leader’s Athlete of the Year.
It is the first time in the school’s history it can claim the award.
The school can thank Montana Quirante for the honor but Quirante would proudly flip that script and thank his school for helping him achieve the award.
There are a lot of things Quirante helped Vidor achieve for the first time.
Quirante earned the award mainly on the football field this past year. His list of accomplishments is long.
He will first tell you he did it all because he had his No. 1 lineman in Devin Asher.
Quirante his senior year became the first Vidor Pirates player to win the Willie Ray Smith Award, a Southeast Texas award given out to the best defensive and offensive player that particular year. It is voted on by local media and other Southeast Texas football experts.
Quirante won the award in Quirante fashion. He didn’t just win the award he won it in style and never expected the final votes to go the way they did.
Quirante first won the offensive award only to hear his name a second time as the winner of the defensive award. It was the first time in the award’s history a player won both awards.
“I was nominated as a junior and this past year as a senior I was excited and was hoping it would be the year I would bring one of them home to Vidor,” Quirante said. “I never dreamed I would win both awards. I will take it that is for sure. It was just an honor to be up there once as a winner and to have my name with the past winners and a few of them are in the NFL right now. ”
What Quirante didn’t get to take in this past year was a lot of college hype and recruiting, which is really unthinkable.
Quirante led the Pirates to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in his junior and senior years. It was the first time in school history the Pirates made the playoffs in consecutive years.
He rushed for 1,783 yards as a senior with 33 touchdowns on 193 carries. He then flipped over as a linebacker and had 147 tackles with seven sacks and three interceptions.
Quirante in the last two years as a quarterback rushed for 2,813 yards and scored 53 touchdowns on 342 carries. The numbers mean Quirante scored 16 percent of the time he carried the ball. It is an unheard of statistic in high school football.
He had 290 tackles in his last two years of playing at Vidor.
“He is Tim Tebow,” Vidor Coach Jeff Mathews said. “He doesn’t seek the attention but people are drawn to this young man.”
The young man with the wide smile might not have been recruited the way Mathews and others who know Quirante figured he would be but it has not stopped him one bit.
Mathews reported Quirante will walk on and play at McNeese University.
“He is so motivated right now,” Mathews said. “He will be a scary football player. He was already a hard worker but now he is out to prove a lot of people wrong and that is very scary.”
Sitting down with Quirante and speaking with the young man is always a treat for anyone. To interview him and try to pull quotes about himself out of him though can be difficult given the fact he doesn’t seek the limelight like a lot of today’s athletes do.
“A lot of people wake up and ask themselves how they can better themselves,” Mathews said. “Montana wakes up and asks ‘What can I do to make the others around me be better people today.’ He is never stressed or down because he has faith and he knows there is a plan in place for him. The glass is never half empty.”
There are a ton of memories of Quirante that Mathews will remember. The one that sticks out the most though has nothing to do with football.
A 12-year-old Vidor student was suffering from an illness and even had to have his foot amputated. Quirante made sure people in attendance at Vidor’s homecoming game against Lumberton knew there are bigger things in this world than a game.
“He asked if after he scored his first touchdown if he could go bring the football to the young man,” Mathews said. “Sure enough he scored and went and found the guy and gave him the football. Then after halftime he pushed Luke out of the tunnel and had his teammates wait until Luke was done having his time in the spotlight. He wanted the kid to have a moment to smile. He was thinking of other people. Some father is going to be real happy one day when Montana marries his daughter.”
Quirante did play other sports this year. He was on the basketball court after football season and then picked up the game of soccer following the basketball season.
He was the manager of the track team and that adventure led to an unusual story.
Quirante said after Vidor’s own track meet was postponed his track coach decided to take the track team to a meet in Louisiana. The coach then made an offer to Quirante to throw the javelin, an event not offered in Texas track and field meets.
Quirante said yes, practiced for a little over an hour the day before the meet, went to Louisiana and placed third in the event.
“I think my distance was 143 feet,” Quirante said. “The great part of that is that is a school record at Vidor now.”
The last bit of history Quirante made at Vidor had to do with the interview process he had with The Orange Leader. Never in the history of the newspaper has a male reporter asked about a male athletes smile.
“I catch a lot of heat from my teammates sometimes for the smile,” Quirante said. “I am just always having fun. I try to be myself and make sure others around me are having a good time. Everybody gets me for it though.”
Mathews even commented on the smile before he was asked about it.
“You are just drawn to Montana,” Mathews said. “I know for many years down the road I will stay in touch with him and will now consider him a friend. You always look to have people like Montana in your life. I am going to miss him as a leader of our football team the most. He is in the weight room as we speak and I guarantee you if you walked in and said hello he would shoot you that same smile while he was doing a rep. What more can you ask for out of a young man?”
There is not much more the city of Vidor and the Pirates athletic department could ask out of Quirante. He has accomplished more than anyone could ever imagined one young man with the wide smile could accomplish.