"We fought through the adversity. We kept our heads high. We didn't lose our confidence. Now our families are proud of us, but I'm also proud of my teammates."
Scant weeks ago, Alabama was two games below .500. But a season-ending run of victories over Mississippi State, Auburn and Southern Miss made the Tide bowl eligible. And insiders report that a bid to the Music City Bowl in Nashville on December 28, is a virtual certainty.
Again, columnists have been prone to take some digs, reminding Tide fans of their team's frigid performance in losing 38-7 to Virginia Tech three years back. And again, Milons is unimpressed with the logic. "Honestly, I don't care where we go," he said. "That's the benefit of going to a bowl. It'll be something nice--especially for the young cats that just came in. It will give them some motivation for where they would want to be the following year.
"Really, besides the loss, I had a nice time at the Music City Bowl. Tennessee was a nice place. If we do go to the Music City Bowl it'll be nice to play in the Tennessee Titans' stadium."
After the '98 trip to Nashville, Milons and the Tide traveled to the Orange Bowl as '99 SEC champions. But he also remembers 2000, when he and his teammates watched the bowls on television.
"This bowl trip is not for me," Milons explained. "When you come to The University of Alabama, you have to set it up for the next group of guys. When you leave, the program should be better than when you came. We tried to set a good example as a senior class--a winning season. Hopefully the guys will take care of business next year, and they'll keep Alabama going."
As a junior, Milons frankly suffered during that 3-8 season, and he was determined that things would improve during his final year at Alabama. "It's amazing what we have accomplished," he related. "It started back last summer with everyone in summer school. We worked out together. We learned the plays and the system together. We went through two-a-days together and the whole nine yards."
Milons finishes the season as the Tide's leading receiver. He is credited with 626 yards on 36 receptions, averaging 17.4 yards per catch. Always a big-play athlete, Milons had three touchdown receptions. For his career, Milons is Alabama's all-time leader in pass receptions and is second in reception yardage.
Though Alabama is averaging more than 400 yards of offense per game, only 183 of that comes via the pass. But the former Playboy All-America thinks the Tide receivers have done their part. Milons explained; "I don't feel like we get enough recognition, but I do feel like we set the tone for the running game. I feel like with guys like Antonio Carter and myself, Jason McAddley and Sam Collins, guys like Triandos Luke and Dre Fulgham coming off the bench--I think we set the tone for the running game. The defense can't key on one player. We're trying to keep things going from an entire offensive standpoint, so people can't just focus on the running game."
Alabama led the SEC in rushing, averaging 226 yards per game (more than 40 yards more than second-place South Carolina). And those numbers were accomplished with five new O-Line starters for most of the year. "We heard the rumors that our young offensive line wouldn't be able to compete in the SEC," Milons said. "But we're leading the SEC in rushing. That speaks a lot for our young offensive line, and it speaks a lot for our coaching staff. It shows what it means to those guys to be successful.
"It also shows that we have two--and I would say three--very nice running backs that are doing a good job."
Ahmaad Galloway led Alabama (and was third in the SEC) with 818 yards. Santonio Beard contributed 633, and remarkably Tyler Watts was third on the team in rushing with 564 yards--despite essentially missing the final three games.
Alabama lost five games this season, but only LSU could be termed a decisive defeat. And versus Ole Miss and South Carolina the Tide blew seemingly solid leads to lose late in the fourth quarter. "I think (the turnaround) was a matter of being sound on the field," Milons said. "In some of those games we lost, there were some key mental mistakes. There were some key errors made that determined how the game turned out. But after those games, we knew that we were only a few plays away from really just making it easy for ourselves as a team."
The Tide finished its season with a 28-15 win over Southern Miss last Thursday. In the pouring rain all of Alabama's receivers struggled to hold onto the football in the first half. "The wideouts had problems in the first half catching the balls," Milons acknowledged. "Whenever it's raining, it should be to the advantage of the receiver running routes. We can get into our breaks, because we know where we're going. A defensive back doesn't know, and they have to cut on a wet surface.
"But the downside is the wet ball. It's really a give and take. When it's pouring down, sometimes it's whoever gets to the ball first."
In that first half, Alabama completed only 3-of-13 passes for a measly 28 yards. Numerous balls were dropped, including one that turned into an interception. But some halftime heart-to-hearts among the Bama wideouts had an effect. "We stepped up; we made plays in the second half," Milons explained. "In the second half (the rain) slacked up some, which gave the receivers time to dry our hands off. We started making the catches. That helped the running game and passing game get going."
Alabama only attempted six passes in the second half, but four were completed for 62 key yards. Milons explained; "I think the second half was a lot of just effort. Not just trying to catch the ball but knowing that we had let not just ourselves but our teammates down. We made it our business to come out in the second half and catch some of those balls."