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McCormick Senior Surprised with Basketball Scholarship

YouTube video of James Montgomery announcement goes viral

James Montgomery may not have started at the top, but he climbed his way there — and now, his efforts have been rewarded.

Montgomery, a senior walk-on player on Northwestern’s basketball team, got a surprise last week when first-year coach Chris Collins announced in front of the team that Montgomery would receive a full scholarship. 

His reaction — and his subsequent phone call to his family — went viral on the Internet, receiving nearly one million YouTube views in just a few days.

Montgomery, a mechanical engineering student in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, received Division I basketball scholarship offers as a high school senior in Los Angeles, but he put his education first and chose Northwestern. 

He hoped to walk on to the basketball team as a freshman, but didn’t make it. Not to be deterred, Montomery accepted an offer to practice with the Wildcats women’s team. His hard work and positive attitude throughout the year won him the support of the coaches, and when he tried again his sophomore year, he earned a non-scholarship spot on the men’s roster.

While walk-on players generally don’t get much playing time, Montgomery remained dedicated and ended up playing in dozens of games. This fall, he caught Collins’ attention.

“He comes every day. He has as much energy as anybody on the team … He’s our best perimeter defender,” Collins announced in the October 22 YouTube video. “The guy who through 12 practices has done the best job of doing what he has to do every day is James … Because of that, James is going to be put on full scholarship for this year.”

The video then captures the conversation as Montgomery shares the news with his family.

NBC Sports, the Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, Slate magazine, and numerous other media outlets shared Montgomery’s story. As of October 25, the YouTube video had more than 900,000 views.