‘It feels like a beam of light has gone out:’ Teammates, coach, and principal remember Tennessee High student-athlete

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BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) — Viking nation is mourning after the drowning death of a beloved high school student-athlete this weekend.

On Monday, Bristol Tennessee City Schools confirmed the body recovered from Holston Lake Sunday evening was that of Micah Montgomery, a 16-year-old junior and football player.

“It’s heartbreaking. I mean he was such a lovable guy, what I’m always gonna remember to smile and that’s the last memory I have with him,” said Matt Chandler, the head football coach at Tennessee High School.

Funny, always smiling, and the “glue” of everyone- just a few of the ways Montgomery was described.

“He’s a hard worker, he’s very competitive and was just somebody you loved being around,” said senior Nysaiah Foote, who grew up and played football with Micah and his older brother, Levon. “He always pushed me to be better. He pushed everybody to be better, worked hard. Did anything you asked him to do.”

Levon is a senior at Tennessee High and is on the team as well. Micah played football for the school since his freshman year but Chandler has been working with him since he started coming to the middle school football camps at the Stone Castle.

“He and his brother shared the running back position it was a great one to punch to have the Montgomery brothers in our backfield,” said Chandler.

Micah scored a touchdown in Friday night’s victory over Knox Karns.

“I blocked on the inside linebacker and saw him just spring to the edge and I was like ‘He’s gone…that’s a touchdown!’ Because I know how good he was. How good he is,” said Micah Kennedy, who is a senior on the team.

Kennedy has known Micah since he was 5 and is the same age as his older brother. They played baseball together as kids.

“It’s just one of those things where you look at it and you’re like, ‘Wow that’s a special kid,'” said Kennedy. “That kid never had a dull moment and he was never down. I never saw him down. He always seemed happy no matter what. It feels like a beam of light has gone out.”

His teammates and coach say Micah was not only a standout on the field but also in the hallways as he was friends with everyone.

“He loves everybody and he just wanted to make you smile and laugh,” said Foote.

Montgomery was also known for hyping the team up, especially after a win with his signature backflip.

“The last memory I have of him here he asked me if he could do the backflip and I said, ‘Hey, let me talk first because the backflip is gonna be way more impressive,'” recalled Chandler. “He laughed and I talked. Then I said, ‘We turn it over to Micah!’ and he did his backflip everyone went and celebrated around him.”

Some students and players gathered on the football field Sunday night after they received the news. There was also a gathering Monday morning before class.

This tragedy, unfortunately, is known all too well to the students at Tennessee High as this marks the third death of a student within the last year.

“The students, they don’t know how to deal with this type of tragedy and it never gets easier and it’s something we hate we have to face,” said Principal Kim Kirk.

In October 2020, senior Gabby Kennedy was killed in a shooting. Senior Logan Smith died in a car accident at the end of January of this year.

“It’s different every time and the thing that you have to do to really try to celebrate that student,” explained Kirk. “It’s very unique what comes out their characteristics, what people remember about them, and the different ways to celebrate them but it’s never easy.”

Counselors were at the school Monday for students and staff and will continue to be brought in as needed.

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