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Big Ben's Former Coaches Say Stories Don't Fit

Mar 23, 2010 – 12:00 PM
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Pat McManamon

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Shane MontgomeryORLANDO, Fla. -- Two of Ben Roethlisberger's former coaches have read about the sexual assault allegations against the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback.

They maintain the guy in the stories they're reading is not the same Roethlisberger they knew in high school and college.

"It's not the same guy I've known for the last five or six years," said Shane Montgomery (pictured), Roethlisberger's position coach and offensive coordinator at Miami (Ohio) University.

"Ben was a great kid," said Cliff Hite, his high school coach in Findlay, Ohio, and now a member of the Ohio House of Representatives. "He came from a great family."

Hite also said that he's had barely any contact with Roethlisberger since he won his first Super Bowl for the Steelers in 2006.

"I don't want to tell you that, but ..." Hite said.

The reason? Roethlisberger drifted from his hometown.

"His mom and dad moved to Pittsburgh," Hite said. "His sister is in Oklahoma. I've got a new job. I've just not had a lot of contact with the family anymore.

"I talked to his dad after the second Super Bowl (2009). When Ben comes to Findlay, he comes unannounced. Our paths just haven't crossed."

Montgomery does keep in touch with Roethlisberger, mainly through text messages. He did not want to get too much into the recent situation because he hadn't talked to him.

"Certain things happen and you just have to put yourself in the right positions," Montgomery said.

Hite said any advice he'd offer would be private.

"Ben is 28 years old and has to make his own decisions," Hite said. "I just hope he makes the right ones."

The decisions that led to Roethlisberger being in the position he's in started when he was introduced to a housing community around Lake Oconee by Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

Arians owns a house there -- along with other college coaches. Folks quip that most of the residents are getting up in age -- except Roethlisberger. He bought his lakeside house for the same reason as the coaches -- it afforded him a nice place (listings online go from $500,000 all the way to $6 million in the many communities) and privacy. Roethlisberger's "mansion" is far from the largest house on the lake, but it's also very nice. During one of his visits prior to the first weekend in March, he spent time at the community clubhouse, where folks enjoyed drinks at a piano bar.

He returned a few weeks later with a group of friends to celebrate his birthday. The night ended in Milledgeville, where Roethlisberger was joined by two off-duty Pittsburgh area police officers. A friend credited Roethlisberger for traveling with those two as his bodyguards, but even they have come under scrutiny. One FanHouse story quoted a bar patron saying someone in Roethlisberger's group was standing watch at the bathroom door where the alleged assault took place.

Stories like these always bring out other tales, some believable, others not. The fact a civil suit also has been filed against Roethlisberger for sexual assault has led to chatter about his treatment of women. But a source close to Roethlisberger said the quarterback was "torn up" about the first charge and shocked another might be coming.

Why did Roethlisberger go to Milledgeville, a small town that is home to the state's largest mental health hospital, literary icon Flannery O'Connor and Georgia College and State University? Because it's the only real town near the Lake. Milledgeville once was the state capital, and its downtown is lined with antebellum buildings.

"If you want to go out," one friend of the quarterback said, "you go to Milledgeville or the piano bar."
Filed under: Sports