TULSA — The early bird gets the worm. Just ask former Miamian Matt Monger.

“The success lies in the daily agenda,” said Monger, Managing Director – Investments, Wealth Management Advisor for Merrill Lynch in Tulsa.

“I have always had a hard work ethic and I do today,” he said. “I am up at 2:15 every morning, I am in the gym at 2:30, in the shower at 4, at work by 4:50 or 5 a.m. and I am here until 6 at night. I am not afraid of work.”

Monger, a 1980 graduate of Miami High School, earned Oklahoma Coaches Association honors in football and wrestling.

He walked on at Oklahoma State, where he eventually became one of the Cowboys’ all-time single season and career tackle leaders.

After graduating from OSU, he played in the NFL with the Jets and Bills.

“It’s that blue-collar Miami background,” Monger said.

He was named by Barron’s magazine to its list of the Top 1,000 Advisors in America in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Monger also was named to Barron’s Top 1,200 Financial Advisors in 2015 and was third on the magazine’s list of top advisors for 2016.

“It’s easy for me because I love to work and I do love to serve others. I am a Christian,” Monger said. “I do believe that an important part of my faith is being in a capacity where I can serve. I do want to serve other people.”

Monger makes it sound like “retirement” is not a word in his vocabulary.

“I could have retired a lot time ago, but I don’t want to,” he said. “I never will. I will probably die in my chair at 95. It helps me be who I think I am called to be.

“I believe God has orchestrated my life and put me where I was supposed to be and do what I was supposed to do. Was it difficult? Yes, but no. If you are really doing what you are called to do, I just think there is no way it’s not going to happen.

“It’s been a fun ride.”

Monger finished as runner-up at 178 pounds in wrestling, suffering an 8-3 loss to Tony Ellison of Mustang.

The Wardogs’ first wrestling all-stater, Monger finished fifth at the state meet as a junior.

He opted to play in the football game, where he had been selected as a running back.

Being selected as a football all-stater was extra special for Monger since his father, Dr. Doyle Monger (who served a stint as Miami school superintendent) also had earned all-state honors.

“As most young men are, they are struggling for parents’ approval and I knew my dad would be proud of that,” the younger Monger said. “It was a very large moment for me to be able to share that same experience with him. In hindsight, it’s even bigger because my father passed away and didn’t get to see much of the other successes I had on the football field.”

OCA Hall of Famer L.D. Bains was Monger’s coach in football and he wrestled under the guidance of Glenn Reding.

“You just don’t forget those high school days,” Monger said. “Those coaches, I don’t think they realize it or not, but they impact those young lives forever. The things they teach you and the training they put you through and the discipline they instill in you. That directs you the rest of your time.”

He remains one of the Cowboys’ all-time single season and career tackle leaders.

Monger was drafted by the New York Jets, where he spend four seasons as a linebacker and team captain before spending his final three seasons with the Buffalo Bills.

“I walked on at OSU and ended up setting all sorts of records, spent six and a half or seven years in the NFL and had a really good career,” Monger said.

He graduated with Bachelor’s degrees in Business Marketing and Business management, and during his time in the NFL, finished up his MBA in Finance degree from Oklahoma State.

During his last couple of seasons, he went to work for Merrill Lynch in 1989, managing money for other athletes.

In 1992, Monger began working full time for Merrill Lynch after retiring from the NFL.

Jimmy Johnson was his coach the first three years at Oklahoma State and then Pat Jones, after Johnson left for the University of Miami.

What was it like playing for Johnson, who won a national title with the Hurricanes (1987) and two Super Bowl titles with the Dallas Cowboys?

“He was a great motivator, great inspiration and really managed the press,” Monger said. “As I look back today, he managed the athletes, too. It’s kinda funny. I was talking about trying to train some young people in this industry recently and was reminded of Jimmy because what Jimmy would do before you would go in front of the press, he would talk to you. Eventually you would start regurgitating exactly what he told you. He was very good at what he did, surrounding himself with a lot of talent.”

When he went to OSU, he was listed as a fullback. He then was shifted to eagle and then middle linebacker.

And he went from walk-on to scholarshipped player just after his father died.

His position coach was Reggie Herring, who launched his career at OSU in 1981 then was promoted to coach linebackers the following season.

Herring currently is linebackers coach for the NFL’s Denver Broncos.

“I am this young, dumb kid and thought it (the move to the defensive side of the ball) was because I thought they saw something in me, but in reality, they had a whole lot of running backs and needed more depth at linebacker.”

Monger didn’t get much playing time at eagle that spring, but injuries opened the doors.

“We had someone get hurt, then the last couple weeks of spring ball, I got a few reps and made some good plays,” he said. “Over the course of the summer, they were watching film and saw I did some things, then we ended up having three linebackers flunk out.”

The Cowboys had several others get hurt during training camp.

“We’re two days away from the opening game (against North Texas) and we have two starters and we have me backing up (James Spencer),” Monger said. “They don’t plan on playing me. They were worried about having to put me in.”

But those plans were dramatically changed when starting middle linebacker Jim Krebs suffered a broken arm midweek in practice.

“I am the only guy left,” Monger said. “Once I did get in, that first game I was Big Eight player of the week and ended up breaking tackle records in a single season and had great success.”

Monger resides in Tulsa with his wife, Karis, two daughters, Miah and Nora, and a son, Caden.

Jim Ellis is sports editor of the Miami News-Record. He can be reached by phone at 918-542-5508, ext. 3052, or by email at jellis@miaminewsrecord.com. Follow him on Twitter @mnrsportsguy.