Fans of Vidor High School football have grown accustomed to Montana Quirante’s wide smile and great leadership qualities.
Well, after Wednesday night, he probably can now get a patent for the grin he was wearing.
Quirante became not only the first Vidor player to ever win a Willie Ray Smith Sr. Award, he also became the first player in the 21-year history of the Smith Awards to capture both the Offensive and Defensive Awards at the banquet that honors to best players in Southeast Texas at the Elegante Hotel.
It was fitting for the best two-way player in the area to win the “Southeast Texas Heisman.”
“It’s such a wonderful feeling to receive this honor,” said Quirante. “I’m still shocked that I won both because there were some excellent football players here tonight.”
Quirante did it all for the Pirates and head coach Jeff Mathews at quarterback and linebacker the last two seasons.
Quirante was the key figure in leading the Pirates to back-to-back playoff trips. Vidor posted a 19-5 overall record, playing four games in the postseason in the process.
As a senior last season, Quirante rushed for 1,783 yards and a stunning 33 touchdowns on just 193 carries.
He was just as effective on the defensive side of the leather, notching 147 tackles, seven sacks and three interceptions. When he wasn’t running it down opponents’ throats, he also passed for 344 yards and three scores.
To put Quirante in even better perspective, in the last two seasons, he’s rushed for 2,813 yards and 53 TDs on 342 carries, passed for 701 yards and three scores and has piled up 290 tackles.
“Wow, unbelievable, this is unprecedented,” said Mathews. “Vidor has never won a Smith Award and for Montana to get both, that’s as awesome as it can get. I don’t really feel like his coach, I feel like part of his family and I will always feel that way. Never, have I been around a kid that was such a fierce competitor. He never wanted to leave the field and he very seldom did. His most valuable asset though, wasn’t his talent, it was the way he carried himself on and off the field. He’s a tremendous leader.”
Quirante had plenty to be thankful for.
“I’m blessed to have an amazing family that has supported me in everything I ever wanted to do,” said Quirante. “Coach Mathews and the Vidor coaching staff, I love all of them to death. The Vidor community has been so supportive of me over the last several years. I’m just so proud of being a part of something special. I also want to thank all of my teammates for helping put Vidor football on the map. I wish we could’ve gone a little deeper in the playoffs but we’re proud of what we accomplished and hopefully teams in the future can go even deeper.”
Quirante was The Orange Leader Team’s Most Valuable Player and the MVP of the All-District 20-4A Team. He was on the Class 4A All-State Team at linebacker and was Honorable Mention at quarterback.
The young man certainly loved playing both positions.
“I thought I had the mentality of a linebacker when I was playing quarterback,” said Quirante. “There was nothing like squaring up and tackling someone hard playing linebacker. But, there is still nothing quite like scoring touchdowns. Those were always fun. My teammates, especially those big boys up front, helped me find the end zone a bunch and they deserve so much credit.”
Offensive finalists that joined Quirante were Port Arthur Memorial quarterback Ricky Fisk, Nederland running back Kendrick Hopkins, and East Chambers running back Glen Roberts.
Defensive finalists with Quirante included West Orange-Stark linebacker Joe Lynch, Nederland linebacker Korbin Stampley, and Newton linebacker Corey Jenkins.
Lamar University head football coach Ray Woodard was the guest speaker at the proceeding.
Smith Sr. captured a ton of victories in his career, accomplishing amazing feats with stern discipline. He took over ill-equipped programs and turned each one of them into consistent winners at Orange Wallace High and Beaumont Charlton-Pollard.
Smith’s sons, Tody and Bubba, who both starred in the National Football League, are among more than a dozen players he helped send on to pro football.
Smith Award winners
Here are the past Willie Ray Smith Award winners:
1993: Offense: Dexter Hebert, Kelly; Defense: Frank Middleton, West Brook
1994: Offense: Jay McGuire, Silsbee; Defense: Shaun Horn, Jasper
1995: Offense: Jeffery Spikes, Burkeville; Defense: Tyseki Ardoin, West Brook
1996: Offense: Elijah Burkins, Thomas Jefferson; Defense: T.J. Light, Lumberton
1997: Offense: Bryan Bock, Bridge City; Defense: Fred Wright, Kountze
1998: Offense: Chip Ambres, West Brook; Defense: Charles Sias, WO-S
1999: Offense: Beaux Daville, Orangefield; Defense: Rod Gulley, Newton
2000: Offense: Dustin Long, PN-G; Defense: Gayron Allen, WO-S
2001: Offense: Sean Yoder, Nederland; Defense: Jermaine Hope, WO-S
2002: Offense: Tony Eckert, Lumberton; Defense: Ricky Wilson, Lincoln
2003: Offense: Matt Peebles, Bridge City; Defense: William Bryant, Jasper
2004: Offense: Jamaal Charles, P.A. Memorial; Defense: William Morrissey, Silsbee
2005: Offense: Jamaal Charles, P.A. Memorial; Defense: Brian West, Ozen
2006: Offense: Kenneth Beasley, WO-S; Defense: Sean Weatherspoon, Jasper
2007: Offense: Micah Mosley, Nederland; Defense: Earl Thomas, WO-S
2008: Offense: Cody Hussey, Lumberton; Defense: Tramain Thomas, East Chambers
2009: Offense: Christian Micheal, West Brook Defense: Kevin Robinson, WO-S
2010: Offense: Jeremy Johnson, Silsbee; Defense: Jacoby Hale, Central
2011: Offense: Fred Ford, Kirbyville; Defense: Colin Garrett, West Brook
2012: Offense: Terrence Singleton, P.A. Memorial; Defense: Corbin Carr, Nederland
2013: Offense: Montana Quirante, Vidor; Defense: Montana Quirante, Vidor