LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- The criticism has followed Bears running back David Montgomery since Chicago selected him in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft -- he's touted for his power but lacks the explosiveness to be considered elite.
Montgomery sought to change that perception, so he went to work. Last June, he followed Bears teammate Thomas Ives to Chicago's western suburbs and began working with Chris Korfist, whom Montgomery called "probably the best speed trainer in the world." They used a reflexive performance reset as they aimed to refine Montgomery as a runner.
Korfist identified instability in Montgomery's pelvis while he ran with the football, which was part of his powerful style. Korfist compared it to a car driving with a loose axle, limiting its speed. Montgomery's ability to break away from defenders was limited.
"He was incredibly powerful almost to a point where it was detrimental," Korfist said Thursday. "So we just redirected where he was putting that power."
In a game against the Chargers at Soldier Field in 2019, Montgomery broke off a 55-yard run late in the first half but was caught by safety Rayshawn Jenkins at the 30-yard line. The Bears had to settle for a field goal on that drive in an eventual 17-16 loss.
Those were the runs that stick with Montgomery and bother him. It's why he sought out Korfist, a teacher at Hinsdale Central High School who began applying science to running.
Korfist has worked with Olympic athletes and other NFL players. But it wasn't until the Hinsdale Central product Ives broke into the NFL that Korfist worked with Bears.
"He’s actually teaching me how to run," Montgomery said. "Like, I’m 23 years old, getting ready to turn 24 here soon in a couple days. But I’ve not been able to run properly the entirety of my life. Me not really realizing how I didn’t know how to run, he’s definitely cleared that image up for me. He’s definitely helping me out a lot.
"I know this year I’m not here to let my guys down. I’m here for whatever may come my way."
Since he started working with Korfist, Montgomery hasn't run a true timed 40-yard dash. But Korfist estimates that Montgomery is now at a 4.44 mark, a vast improvement from the 4.63 he clocked at the NFL Combine in 2019. Montgomery has added 1.5 miles per hour to his speed since he began with Korfist a year ago.
Montgomery began to see the dividends of his work during the 2020 season. He struggled behind a weak offensive line in the first half of the season, rarely getting the opportunity to showcase his newfound speed. But the Bears altered their line for the final six games of the regular season, and Montgomery broke out. He rushed for a combined 598 yards in the final six games and finished with 1,070 rushing yards in 15 games for the season. That included an 80-yard run against the Texans in December in which he outran the defense for a touchdown.
Montgomery tied for fifth in the NFL in rushing yards in 2020. He isn't satisfied with that, hoping to prove in 2021 that he's the best running back in the league. Montgomery and Korfist are back to work again this offseason.
"He's got a chip on his shoulder about being the best," Korfist said. "I think that he really feels that he should be the best in the NFL.
"He is out to prove that. I think it's more than just his drive. It's a force, that he's out to do that. And he doesn't stop at anything to get there."
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.