Prize catch – Billings verbally commits to AU

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Montez Billings can thank coach Sammy Queen, not only for coaching him on the football field the past few years, but for getting him on one in the first place.

Billings, who entered this season as one of the nation’s top recruits at wide receiver, wasn’t even sure about playing football before his sophomore year at Pelham High School.

&uot;He kept trying to get me to play,&uot; Billings said of Queen. &uot;He just wanted me out there.&uot;

Giving in to Queen’s pleas paid big dividends for Billings, who finished his 10th grade season with 70 receptions, 1,256 yards and 11 touchdowns. It was also enough to start catching the eye of college recruiters.

Last week, Billings announced he had chosen Auburn University from a long list of schools offering scholarships for his services on the football field.

Billings said he will sign with the Tigers on Feb. 2, National Signing Day.

&uot;I’m pretty excited,&uot; Billings said. &uot;I never thought I’d make it this far.&uot;

Queen, on the other hand, saw it coming.

At 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, Billings has all the physical tools to be a top-notch receiver, but throw in an unrivaled work ethic and he really becomes a prize catch for any college program, according to Queen.

Since joining the varsity squad, Billings never missed a workout, practice or team meeting, even during the offseason months when many such functions were voluntary.

&uot;If we had the doors open, he was there,&uot; Queen said.

Queen is also high on his star player’s character.

&uot;(Auburn) is going to get a good kid, number one,&uot; he said.

After his breakout sophomore year, Billings noticed a slight decline in his receiving totals, partly because of a change in Pelham’s offense and partly due to the constant double and even triple-team coverage he routinely faced as an upper classman.

He still managed 42 catches for 458 yards and three touchdowns as a junior and 40 catches for 601 yards and four touchdowns this season.

A good athlete with blazing speed, Billings also runs track and plays basketball for Pelham.

A self-professed lifelong Auburn fan, he chose the Tigers over Georgia and Alabama. Billings joins Briarwood defensive lineman Andrew McCain as the second highly-rated recruit from Shelby County to commit to Auburn this season. Also linked to AU is friend and former Thompson standout Tony Bell,

currently a freshman safety at Auburn.

&uot;At least, I know for sure I’ll know someone when I get down there,&uot; Billings said of his intention to join Bell on the Plains.

With Auburn’s wide receivers seeing an increased role in new offensive coordinator Al Borges’ &uot;Gulf Coast&uot; offense, Billings said he is excited about joining the Tigers’ receiving corps.

Billings said his favorite Auburn receiver is Devin Aromashodu.

&uot;He plays like me,&uot; Billings said of the 6-2, 204-pound junior who happens to wear the same No. 1 jersey at Auburn as Billings does at Pelham.

Billings said he plans on taking his official visit to Auburn’s campus later this year