JANUARY 25, 1982
Gazing from a New York City hotel suite, 53 stories above a gridlocked midtown Manhattan, Joe Montana surveys the commuters below with the same sort of empathy that NFL fans felt for the frustrated cornerbacks who had to defend against Montana's passes during his singular 16-year career. Standing there, Montana, still slim and athletic-looking, appears capable of lacing 'em up and quarterbacking the San Francisco 49ers again. But when he turns and walks to a couch, he does so gingerly and then sits with a wince, rubbing his balky left knee. "Even today I have a hard time accepting that I'll never play again," Montana, 48, says. "But with my bad elbow and this knee bothering me, I'm reminded why I won't. I guess I had a pretty good run."
In the nine years since his NFL run ended—he was a three-time Super Bowl MVP and two-time league MVP—Montana has tried to fill the void in a variety of ways. He took what seemed the natural first step, a job as an NFL studio analyst with NBC, but quickly realized that he wasn't cut out for it "In TV, nobody cares if you get it right; they just want you to yell, to seem definitive. It was the old, 'If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, then baffle 'em with b.———-.' I had to go."
Montana left after one season and in 2000 joined former teammates Ronnie Lott and Harris Barton in their Silicon Valley-based fund-management company, Champion Ventures. Montana is a managing partner and often works from one of two Northern California residences he shares with his wife of 19 years, Jennifer, and their four children (Alexandra, 18, Elizabeth, 17, Nathaniel, 14, and Nicholas, 12). In addition to monthly speaking engagements he has cultivated several private business interests; last October, Montana, an avid pilot, invested in and joined the board of Avocet Aircraft, a commuter-plane manufacturer.
He's also a spokesman for a high-blood-pressure awareness campaign sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals, which was why he was in New York City. "[My celebrity] can't help find a cure, but it might get a few people to see their doctor," says Montana, who during a routine physical in June 2002 was found to have high blood pressure and was instructed to see a cardiologist immediately. "I didn't pass Go, didn't collect $200," he says. "It was bad."
And while he feels the pull of football on Sundays in the fall, more acute are the throbs of his arthritic right elbow and left knee. He has had arthroscopic surgery on that knee six times and needs another procedure. Still, the 2000 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee harbors a desire to play even flag football. "I just want a taste of the game," says Montana, who led the NFL in passing twice and finished with 40,551 passing yards and 273 touchdowns. "I don't know if my area has any seven-on-seven leagues, but I'd play if there were any."