'Fast Freddie' the grizzled vet?

For erstwhile All-American Freddie Milons, 2001 represents more than a just chance to reclaim his spot among the elite receivers in the SEC. Though it hardly seems possible, Milons is the veteran leader now, and this season will be his last to make his mark in college football. "Looking back to my true freshman year, I was little, and I was thin," Milons said. "I'm just happy that I didn't listen when people said I couldn't make it in D1 ball."

As he remembers it, scores of critics warned him that as a former option quarterback he wasn't big enough to play football in the Southeastern Conference. But thankfully he's never been one to listen to the naysayers. "I'm glad I didn't let people stop the goals that I set for myself."

It's easy to forget that the pride of Starkville, Mississippi arrived on campus playing second fiddle to the more heralded Eric Locke. But Milons believed in himself and wouldn't be intimidated by the older, more experienced veterans. "The guy I remember was Fernando (Bryant)," Milons related. "He was like the spokesman for the team. But one of the few guys that intimidated me was Calvin Hall. Calvin had this big bass voice.

A two-year starter who also played in every game as a true freshman, Milons enters the 2001 season as a ‘grizzled veteran,' determined to play a leadership role on next year's team.

"But Coach Swinney (the wide receivers coach for Milons' first three seasons at Alabama) talked to us, and after awhile we learned that we weren't working against each other."

But even though he was learning a new position, Milons saw plenty of action that first year, contributing significantly to Bama's 7-4 squad. "One of the most memorable plays I remember was LSU my freshman year," Milons said. "For that on-sides kick, Coach told me to get out there. It was deathly silent for a moment, then when we got the ball it was like we were at home. It got LOUD. Those LSU fans knew we were about to score.

"The quietest stadium--and then the loudest at the same time was LSU my freshman year. We recovered that on-sides kick and then ended up winning."

Of course it was as a sophomore that Milons became a star, dazzling the sporting world with his versatility. During that season the talented athlete returned punts, caught passes and even put in time at quarterback as Alabama drove to its 21st SEC title. "In the SEC championship game when I scored on that option run, the last thing I remember was seeing Tyler (Watts)," Milons related. "I think I was trying to send him a mental message. ‘Please, Tyler. Come over and block this guy.' He did, but I didn't hear anything until I got to the endzone. But then the noise just erupted."

Milons emerged from '99 as a bona fide star, his picture plastered everywhere and uniform number worn proudly by countless Crimson-clad children. "The first time I saw a No. 15 jersey was unreal," Milons said. "I don't mind the kids looking for an autograph. Sometimes I've seen some kids that you see want to ask, but they're afraid. You may not feel like it, but you try to go ahead. I try to think about when I was their age."

Blessed with boundless energy and talent, Milons's incredible acceleration out of cuts makes him a threat to score anytime he touches the football.

Last season was admittedly a tough one for Milons. After being voted pre-season Playboy All-American, his fortunes paralleled those of his team. And Milons was too often a non-factor in the Bama offense, taken away by opposing defenses keying on the brilliant athlete. In addition, a sprained knee limited his production to the point where Antonio Carter finished the season as the Tide's leading receiver.

His 32 receptions for 287 yards and one touchdown were a significant drop-off from 1999, prompting Milons to throw himself into the off-season conditioning program. Stronger and faster than ever in his life, the senior starter is anxious for his final season to begin.

Known as ‘Fast Freddie' to Bama fans everywhere, Milons is actually a reluctant star, preferring to keep to himself and his teammates. But he has come to understand the hold that Tide athletes have over their fans. "As a freshman you don't realize how much control you have over your teammates and those 85,000 people watching--not to mention all those people on television," Milons related. "I remember watching Charles Woodson of Michigan growing up, and now I see myself on video games and my jersey in the stores.

"As a freshman I never would have imagined that I could go to the 50-yard line and motion to the crowd. And they would react. As a freshman I was just doing what the coaches told me. But now you realize the effect you have emotionally--how much you can affect people's lives."

Always a vocal leader on the team, Milons is now frankly enjoying the perks that come with being a senior--including the good-natured hazing of Alabama's newest freshman offensive sensation. "I get after the freshmen a lot," Milons admitted with a laugh. "In fact, I'll be teasing them bad. I mess with them a lot. When Brodie (Croyle) came in, the first thing I did was ask him for something. Then when he gave it to me, I just threw it in the trashcan. You should have seen his mouth drop open. And every time he'd be getting dressed, I threw his shoes somewhere.

"But when I came in that treatment from the seniors helped me. Tough love. Hopefully one day Brodie will pass it along to freshmen, too."

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