Gridiron Grit

Area attorney enjoys glow of Friday lights

Brian Montoye was a three-season varsity letter winner with the Eastern Michigan University “Eagles” football team, playing safety and on special teams.
Now the Chelsea attorney helps clients tackle tough issues – and in his leisure time, is one of nine assistant varsity football coaches at Chelsea High School, under varsity head coach Brad Bush who has led the Bulldogs to 13 straight playoff appearances and several undefeated seasons.

Montoye, who has been involved since 2004, coaches defensive backs and special teams. 

“I enjoy the practices that prepare the players for game night,” he says. “Friday nights are for the players – there’s actually very little a coach can do on Friday night to affect the outcome.

“It’s a privilege to coach Chelsea players – to help them achieve goals they’ve set for themselves.  Football is a big deal in Chelsea – most of the guys I coach, and their parents, have been looking forward to their varsity years since they were 6 or 7 years old.”

An Ypsilanti native, Montoye first laced up his cleats at the age of 9, playing for Ypsilanti’s Junior Braves. A graduate of Ypsilanti High School, in 1989 he was named an All-State player on the Ypsilanti football team.

“I can’t think of anything I didn’t love about playing football,” he says.

At EMU, he was honored with the Elton J. Rynearson Award in 1991, given annually to the football player who best combines athletic ability and scholastic excellence; and in 1992, was honored as an Honorable Mention Academic All-Mid-American Conference selection.

“The first college game I actually played in was EMU at Wisconsin in 1991, in front of over 70,000 of the rowdiest people you can imagine,” he says.  “We took the field from a tunnel that passed through the student section, and I was doused with beer and nacho cheese. 

“We gave them a game, though – it was 7-6 in the fourth quarter, and I think we eventually lost 17-6.  No beer on the way out, so maybe we earned a little of their respect – or maybe they were just out of beer.”

While Montoye never had any illusions about an NFL career, he enjoys watching college and pro sports – “Predictably, the Detroit Lions and EMU,” he says.
And his years on the gridiron helped his legal career, he says.

“Football and law school are both about grinding through the daily work, improving on all the little parts, so that on game day or exam day you have the confidence to just let it go and put forth your best performance.”

Montoye didn’t start out on a path to the legal profession. He earned his bachelor’s degree in History from EMU, studied philosophy in the Ph.D. program at the University of Kentucky, and worked as a land surveyor.

“I fell into land surveying because that’s what my father did, so I had a good teacher,” he says. “Also, at that time – the late ‘90s and early 2000s – there was almost unlimited work in surveying with all the new residential construction. It was a great job for a young guy willing to work a lot of hours.”

Turning to the law, he earned his J.D., cum laude, from Cooley Law School in Lansing, where he was a Senior Associate Editor of the Law Review, won a Certificate of Merit in Criminal Procedure, and received the Honors Scholarship, Dean’s List Award, and Honor Roll in every term.

“I studied law because I wanted a challenge, and an education that would prepare me for more than one career path – I like to keep my options open,” he says. “Cooley provided a great education on a flexible, year-round schedule. It was a rigorous program, which is how I like to work.”

At Cooley he worked in the Sixty-Plus Elder Law clinic, and also defended clients, on felony and misdemeanor charges, as part of the Washtenaw County Public Defender Clinic.

“I enjoyed getting some early, practical experience with clients, and meeting a few of the people I would eventually work with,” he says.

After practicing for a couple of years at Fink & Valvo in Ann Arbor, where he successfully litigated hundreds of cases in courts throughout southeastern Michigan, Montoye decided to hang out his own shingle in Chelsea in April. He assists clients on a wide range of legal matters, with a focus on estate planning and probate, criminal defense, civil disputes, real estate issues, and more.

“I enjoy helping clients, and the variety of people and problems.  I’m rarely bored at my job,” he says. “I enjoy competition, so litigation is a pretty good fit for me.  Often, however, it’s tough to tell who – if anybody – won the contest.

 Montoye and his wife Sheri call Lima Township home, and their three children – Myranda, 10, April, 9, and Richard, 5, all attend Chelsea Public Schools.
“Chelsea has great schools, interesting people who really do know one another, and a thriving downtown,” he says. He has given back to the community by volunteering for the Washtenaw County Bar Association’s “Constitution Day” program, Girls on the Run of Southeastern Michigan, and the Chelsea Community Hospital annual Heart and Sole Race.

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