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July 17, 2008
Great expectations for Montana, Gretzky sons
MORE: College Football Preseason Countdown | Football Recruiting: Class of 2009 Rivals100
WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. – Coach Bill Redell hit the practice field and started rounding up his quarterbacks.
"Hey, get me Montana," he shouted, followed moments later with, "Hey, get me Gretzky."
That would be Nick Montana, son of Hall-of-Fame quarterback Joe Montana.
That would be Trevor Gretzky, son of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.
And this would be Oaks Christian, a private high school that now figures to attract as many stargazers as college football scouts.
While the offspring of two of the planet's most famous athletes took snaps Wednesday during a routine summer football workout, the son of an on-screen superhero had just finished catching passes. The budding receiver is Trey Smith, whose father is actor Will Smith, now starring in the box-office hit "Hancock."
Sports fans might recognize Oaks Christian as a football powerhouse. In 2006, after all, the school fielded a team that included Jimmy Clausen, the nation's top-rated high school quarterback when he signed with Notre Dame; Marc Tyler, a running back who plays for USC and is the son of former NFL standout Wendell Tyler; and nine other players who signed scholarships with Division I schools.
Not that celebrity newshounds seemed to notice.
"We were swamped by media," said Redell, head coach at Oaks Christian. "But Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight weren't among them."
Access Hollywood was denied access to campus Wednesday, and a school employee patrolled the parking lot on the lookout for unwanted paparazzi presumably lurking nearby. Oaks Christian is a short trip from Hollywood by helicopter, which is how Will Smith got to one of the school's football games last year.
Neither Wayne Gretzky nor Will Smith was on hand Wednesday, but there was Joe Montana, sporting a T-shirt, Bermuda shorts and flip-flops. He watched from the sideline with his wife, Jennifer, and was almost as hard to pick out as his son. The players wore T-shirts rather than jerseys for the passing drills.
"Which one's Montana's kid?" wondered more than a few visitors.
The sons of Wayne Gretzky and Will Smith played for the junior varsity team at Oaks Christian last year. But it was the recent arrival of Joe Montana's son that generated red-carpet buzz – after Oaks Christian realized who had arrived.
"The admissions office called and said, 'Do you know a Joe Montana?'" Redell said. "And I said, 'Yeah, I've heard of the guy.'"
A week later, having had only 20 minutes to familiarize himself with the team's offense, Nick Montana threw two fades passes and a 50-yard bomb for touchdowns during one of the weekly summer scrimmages.
"He looked like a young Joe Montana," said Redell, who seems far more excited about the younger Montana than the older Montana – or Wayne Gretzky, for that matter.
Redell, 67, was playing quarterback for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League when he first met Gretzky, known in hockey circles as "The Great One." The former CFL quarterback said Gretzky told him he was 8 years old when he attended a Tiger-Cats game in Canada and asked Redell for his autograph.
"Did I give it to you?" Redell asked upon hearing the story.
"You did," Gretzky replied
"And you thought you were the Great One," Redell quipped.
Now the question is how great will the famous offspring become.
Trevor Gretzky, a sophomore who's as skinny as the handle of a hockey stick, will start the season as the No. 1 quarterback for the JV team. He started playing the position only four months ago after Oaks Christian coaches saw him throwing the ball and suggested he give the position a shot. For the record, he has no interest in playing hockey.
"I'm a Southern California kid," explained Trevor, born after his father arrived in Los Angeles two decades ago as part of a blockbuster trade that sent Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings. "There's no hockey leagues out here anyway."
Trey Smith, also a sophomore, will be one of Gretzky's primary receivers on the JV team. He is off limits to the media.
"He's a good enough athlete to play on the varsity, but he decided he wants to play for the frosh-sophomore team," Redell said.
Then there's Nick Montana.
At 6 feet 2 inches, he's already taller than his father, and Redell predicts his newest quarterback will develop into a "big-time" Division I college prospect.
Last year he started at quarterback for the junior varsity team at Concord De La Salle, a football power in the Bay Area, where Joe Montana led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowls. Nick Montana also has spent the past three years working with Steve Clarkson, a highly regarded quarterback instructor in Southern California, and Joe Cool said he's taken mostly a hands-off approach with his son.
"He's one of those kids who played in the parking lot and played at every recess growing up," said Joe Montana, adding that business interests led to the family's decision to relocate to Southern California. "… He loves the game. He doesn't study it enough yet, but I think he's starting to understand what it takes."
Nick Montana shrugged off the attention he and the sons of Wayne Gretzky and Will Smith have created.
"I'm not even starting right now yet, so I'm just trying to have fun and play football."
As of Wednesday, the starting quarterback job belonged to Tony Macarena. He is a senior and the son of Sergio Macarena. And for the benefit of those less familiar with Sergio Macarena than Joe Montana, Wayne Gretzky or Will Smith, Sergio said of himself, "He lifts furniture for a living."
Josh Peter is a writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Josh a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.