Martino “Coach Savage” Montague was a decorated D3 football player and tried to break into the NFL before a series of ACL injuries forced him to hang up his cleats. A passion for the game combined with a penchant for putting together grueling workouts naturally led him into athletic training and start The Elite Athletic Program with his brother, Thomas Mayo. Now, his clientele includes names like Chris Thompson, Mason Foster, Josh Doctson, Maurice Harris, Anthony Lanier, Ryan Anderson, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Martrell Spaight, Geron Christian and Morgan Moses. I chatted with him about what it’s like training Redskins players and preparing them for the rigors of the regular season.
Hogs Haven: Has anyone ever told you your name is perfect for what you do? Is your last name actually Savage?
Coach Savage: [Laughs] My last name is actually Montague. I train high school kids as well, and a lot of them would say my workouts are savage. So then I just became “Coach Savage”, and the name stuck.
What do guys usually come to you for? Do you help them get in shape, rehab from injuries, or both?
Guys usually come to me in the offseason to get their bodies right for training camp, for the conditioning tests. We try and respect the [Redskins] training staff when it comes to rehab from injuries and timetables and whatnot. Guys come to me to get ready for training camp, before they’re in ‘camp shape’.
Can you explain what ‘camp shape’ is? I’ve heard the term used quite a bit but never really understood what it meant.
Camp shape is more of a mental state. It’s when your body is used to taking hits. You can only really be in camp shape once you’re being hit in pads. And then during the season, it’s all about executing these specific tasks perfectly, rather than just being in shape. So it’s more of a combination of mental and physical rather than just physical, which is what we try and prepare for in the offseason.
Alright, so who’s the ‘freakiest’ player you’ve trained so far? Who works the hardest?
Ah, man... I’d have to say Chris, Chris Thompson. And Mo Harris. But Chris just does stuff I can’t believe man.
What do you mean by that?
Chris is just smooth, man. When we do agility drills in the sand, his feet move so fast it’s just a blur. But the crazy thing is the sand doesn’t even move. It just becomes this mist and when it settles you can’t even see where his feet were. He’s a freak. Mo [Harris] is also like that, just really smooth.
Who’s the laziest Redskins’ player you’ve ever trained? Was it Chris Baker*?
[Laughs for a good 10-15 seconds] First off, I won’t ever say one of my guys don’t work hard. Everyone got here for a reason... because they work hard, because they’re talented. But I will say one thing about Chris [Baker] — the first time we were out working together, I was running him through some drills, and he stops and just looks at me and says “How many more of these we gotta do, huh?” I was just like “As many more as you can take.” But nah, I won’t say any one my guys is ever lazy.
A lot of fans get on Josh Doctson for not working hard, putting forth maximum effort. What do you have to say about that?
That’s crazy, man. Josh is one of the hardest workers I’ve been around. He goes hard on everything we do and is super talented. Think he’s gonna have a big year this year. Josh just has a quiet personality; he listens before he speaks, so people may interpret that as being uninterested or something. But it’s just the opposite. He’s very passionate.
What’s next for you?
I grew up watching this team, so to be able to work with these guys is a dream come true. I want to continue working with as many Redskins players as I can, help them prepare for the season, get their bodies right. One thing Chris [Thompson] said to me when I first met him that really stuck, when he was recovering from his [season-ending leg] injury, was “we’re so lucky to wake up every day and be able to play a kid’s game. Football is a kid’s game. So to have the opportunity to do that for a living is a blessing.”
I also have a gym with my brother where I train regular folks, do boot camps, things like that. And working with high school athletes — I do every sport except swimming! A number of kids I’ve worked with have gotten D1 scholarships, which I’m really proud of.
I love pushing people to reach their full potential... some people say my style is ‘tough love’; I like to call it ‘honest love’. Ain’t nobody gonna be honest with you except yourself!
Martino “Coach Savage” Montague owns The Elite Athletic Program, which encompasses sport-specific training for athletes of all levels, plus fitness boot camps and personal training for adults. If you live in the DMV area and interested in learning more, you can reach him via email at email@example.com.
This interview has been edited and condensed.