It had been exactly 700 days since Alexander Montgomery had caught a pass during a college football game.
Seven hundred days between when the Kentucky wide receiver leaped into the air to celebrate a touchdown catch against Alabama State — tearing a ligament in his knee — to when he snagged a pass in the middle of the field against Eastern Kentucky.
"I was excited," Montgomery said of that catch against the Colonels.
The sophomore made the first defender miss. "Then my feet slipped from under me because I was too excited. My brain was running faster than my legs could."
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He had every reason to be excited. That catch for 2 yards seemed inconsequential, but it was the culmination of two incredibly difficult years for the wide receiver from Weston, Fla.
And while the number of days between catches is significant, perhaps the most significant number in Montgomery's story is 1.
That's how many days Coach Mark Stoops gave Montgomery to decide if he wanted to keep playing at Kentucky after the wide receiver discussed transferring.
It was Aug. 27, the second day of classes this fall, and Montgomery had gone from a rising star as a true freshman to a redshirt sophomore who hadn't cracked the post-camp depth chart.
"Once I saw I wasn't playing, I was really hurt," Montgomery said. "I was really hurt."
Relegated to the scout team, the receiver weighed his options. He met with Stoops and was given a day to decide.
"I sat down with Stoops man to man," Montgomery said. "He kept it real with me. I told him I'd stick it out and I gave him my word that I'd stick it out and just keep trying my best."
Montgomery acknowledged Tuesday that he maybe hadn't been his best since that anterior cruciate ligament tear Nov. 2, 2013, followed by subsequent surgeries on two torn meniscuses and a scope to get rid of some painful scar tissue.
"I told myself if I get another knee injury like that, I'd probably hang it up 'cause it took me, what, two years to come back?" Montgomery said. "I didn't want to rehab for the first one. I was skipping rehab; I didn't want to do it. It hurt too bad."
He slowly clawed his way back, which made being relegated to the scout team all the more difficult.
And while all of those reps on the scout team — where he said "all you do is run" — were frustrating for Montgomery, he's starting to see the benefit.
Two or three weeks ago, he realized he wasn't winded running routes anymore. He could run for hours and not feel the familiar soreness in his knee.
"Just every day got a little better," wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord said. "Every day got just gradually got a little better to where — and you could see relief on him when you knew he was finally over that hump — you could tell his play changed and got more aggressive and got more confident."
His position coach isn't the only one seeing it.
One day soon, the Montgomery story will be one Stoops uses to encourage players to keep working after they are hurt or frustrated about playing time.
"We need more guys like him that will put their head down and work, and just because they're not playing a lot, don't get discouraged," said Stoops, who noted that Montgomery is playing in that deep slot receiver spot behind players like Garrett Johnson and Ryan Timmons.
Against Missouri, Montgomery got three plays, then 15 against Eastern Kentucky, the game where he had that first collegiate catch in 700 days.
Slowly, he is making his way back onto the field.
"I'm in the rotation now, so that's a good thing," Montgomery said. "Right now, in my mind-set, there are no step-backs."
Johnson and Timmons are similar receivers with similar frames, but at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Montgomery offers the Cats a more physical alternative inside.
"Sometimes we get guys who are heavier than us out there on the edge, so he can anchor some of those blocks in the run game and in the quick screen game that some of those other guys can't," Mainord said.
And as Montgomery's confidence continues to grow, so will his playing time.
"Kid's been playing well," offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. "He's going to play more and more. Love his attitude, love his energy. We've got a good group of inside receivers there and we've gotta go with who's hot and who's playing the best at practice, and he's definitely a kid that's been playing well."
It was a long 700 days, but Montgomery learned a lot.
He's happy he stayed at Kentucky.
"Now that I'm back playing and everything, it just makes me feel a whole lot better, like relief, just like relief that I can actually be back out there and play with my boys."