Montez Blair. Image courtesy of Blair.

On a Thursday night at Vito’s Pizza, Montez Blair is exchanging White Elephant gifts with his Oracle co-workers and friends.

Sure, the 6’2 Blair sticks out based on height alone, but the dude is magnetic, his 10,000-megawatt smile becoming the center of the evening’s joyous universe. And he has good reason to smile– Blair, the business development consultant for Oracle, has transcended a rough upbringing to succeed in Santa Monica and maybe, The Rock and NBC’s new show Titan Games.

Blair was born in Southern New Jersey in self-admitted less-than-stellar conditions. He grew up 2nd youngest in a large family of 7, 5 brothers and 2 sisters. He was raised by a single mother, his extended family and older siblings helping out where they could.

“We never had the means to get the nice things in life,” Blair recalls, detailing a childhood of cramped quarters, and a lot of moving from roach-filled apartment to apartment and living with friends. “My aunts and uncles and friends and mom made sure we were taken care of in terms of getting necessities, though. My family and friends always made sure we always had enough to get by.”

Blair has a playful demeanor always and surprisingly so even when discussing a harsh past.

“There was a lot of hand me downs, sharing stuff. It was hard. We didn’t live in luxury, so sharing was caring. I remember taking sisters basketball shoes. They were Iversons so I had to,” he joked.

To learn how to move past his humble beginnings, Blair luckily had the luxury of learning from his older siblings. He mentions an older brother who was just released from prison for “doing things he shouldn’t have been doing” but that was a pioneer for his siblings.

That brother showed them right and wrong through trial and error, how to get ahead and not get ahead in life.

Blair knew he didn’t want to get caught in negativity and focused on sports, which bred a path for him to leave Jersey.

He attended the United States Naval Academy for a little over a year before transferring to a junior college in Iowa to do track and field and basketball, later transferring to Cornell to do the same. He is Cornell’s high jump record holder, a USA Track and Field club national champion, 6-time all-American and 3-time 1st team all ivy and is on Team USA for the world championships in track and field. He finished in 7th place for the Olympic Trials in 2012 (top 5 qualify).

Eventually, he transferred to a university in London with a job offer from Oracle in Santa Monica came soon after.

While at work one day, he received a call from his best friend.

“I’m a little bit of a nerd, so my friend calls and he’s like, ‘Aye, aren’t you like The Rock’s biggest fan?’ And like, duh, so I ask him why he’s asking and he tells me he was auditioning for this thing called the Titan Games.”

Blair says he went initially just to train with and motivate his friend, until he and his friend engaged in some… let’s say spirited, competitive banter.

“Straight up, he was talking trash so I sought out to bust his ass,” Blair says with a laugh. “I’m not gonna lie to you. I’m a competitive person, the most competitive person, so I had to go at him.”

Iron sharpened iron as Blair and his friend both qualified for Titan Games.

When he got there, he was wowed by the set. He can’t talk much about the obstacles he did due to an embargo, but he can talk about meeting The Rock (“he’s huge, it’s insane”) and the set.

“It’s a magnificent piece of art, man. The nerd in me freaked out. That was my first thought. My second was, man, these spotlights burn.”

Blair says he wants to use that burning spotlight to show others, if he can make it through harsh times, anyone can.

He does so on a smaller scale via his Linkedin and Instagram, posting motivational thoughts. He says becoming the Titan Games’ Titan and winning the $100k grand prize is nice but not his main goal — to him, the biggest win he could achieve is spreading positivity and being an example on a grand scale.

“I want to be proof positive for my nieces and nephews first and foremost, but I want to inspire anyone that’s struggling,” he said. “I want to be that living example. Anybody can say something, but it’s ten times, hundred times harder to do it. I’m an example. From Jersey to The Rock’s TV show. You can make it.”

angel@smdp.com

 

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