Joe Montana is soft-spoken and relaxed but push the right button and the competitive fire that led him to four Super Bowl victories bubbles to the surface.
Hey Joe, how do you think your Niners would fare...
"We'd win. We'd win. We'll win it. I'm not even going to let you finish your question," said Montana, who will be the headline speaker at the 39th annual "Y" Sports Dinner this June. "Put us out there against any of today's teams and I like our chances."
OK, that takes care of today but what about yesterday -- how about the Steelers teams of the '70s?
"Now that would be interesting. I grew up a fan of those teams. When they had it going they were pretty good. That would be fun. I'd like that," he said.
The 54-year-old Montana is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and arguably the greatest quarterback in football history. The Pennsylvania native and Notre Dame graduate won more than 70 per cent of the games he started including all four trips to the Super Bowl during a 16-year career.
Never the fastest, biggest or strongest of arm, Montana was accurate, smart and above all -- as the handle Joe Cool attests -- calm under pressure.
Superstar athletes can grow huge egos but Montana seems to have avoided that pitfall.
"I'm just a normal guy who played a stupid game for a living and got paid well for it," said Montana, who was at a San Francisco mall during our phone call. "My wife and I have been on the road so much -- I'm just buying some sweats and socks and stuff. I'm shopping if you can believe it."
Montana joined the San Francisco 49ers in 1979 and took the woeful franchise to the Super Bowl just two years later, winning the first of three Super Bowl MVP awards.
Montana led his teams to 31 fourth-quarter comebacks and was selected to eight Pro Bowls.
In retirement he's built a successful real estate business as well as a private equity firm with former teammates Harris Barton and Ronnie Lott with over $650 million in assets.
Montana retired in 1994 but has kept an eye on the game and has two sons playing in college programs these days.
"Jennifer (wife) and I keep busy. We've been travelling around the country watching our boys play and practise," said Montana, who played 14 years with the Niners and two with the Kansas City Chiefs. "It's tough to keep watch on a lot of NFL games. I have watched some CFL over the years and I would have loved to have been a quarterback up there. It's wide open and you really get to use the field. It looks like a blast for quarterbacks."
Among the many issues in today's game -- Montana says the league cancelling games due to labour issues would be money madness.
"For both sides I just think there's so much money to be lost -- so I don't think there will be a strike or missed games," said Montana. "It's always about money and when it comes down to it -- the owners will be losing more than the players. They say they are prepared for it but I just can't imagine anyone walking away from that much money and feeling good about it."
Making money has been just as easy for Montana in his post-football career as making touchdowns was during his playing days.
"Sports teaches you great life lessons from the beginning. It's very competitive and the better you are the more success you have. Sports does that naturally for you. As soon as you are out of sports or school -- that's what the real world is all about," said Montana. "There is a winner and loser and the harder you work the better chance you have of being the winner. When you got to apply for a job -- it's the same process. Be prepared and you will win in the game of job hunting."
Montana had multiple surgeries and broken bones during his career.
"Guys played with severe injuries and inferior equipment for a long time. Hopefully I can stay away from some of the debilitating things guys experience. I have my own little issues here and there, I've had my share of surgeries," said Montana. "It's sad to see some players aren't being taken care of or that we can't find ways. That's what a big part of the fight is right now. To help those guys and the guys playing now because you don't realize what it's like until it's over."
Montana will speak at the Y Sports Dinner in support of the Rady Jewish Community Centre on June 21. Tickets to the Winnipeg Convention Centre event can be purchased by phone at 477-7513.