Florida Head Coach Jim McElwain rarely feels the need to praise his players. In a sport where toughness is more of a way of life than a prerequisite to enter, being compared to the Man of Steel is not something that should be taken lightly. When Coach McElwain gushed after the opening game about Daniel McMillian, his face expression said it all: there was absolutely no reasonable way that he should have been on the field. As most are aware, high ankle sprains have a tendency to plague even the gutsiest of competitors for months, even years. To McMillian, it was nothing more than what he owed to his brothers.
“Once my adrenaline got going, I really didn’t feel it,” McMillian told a host of reporters Monday. “I was just out there playing. I wanted to be with my boys. I felt like I let myself down and my team down if I didn’t play.”
The fact that this season is the last hoorah for the senior did not escape him. Not even being told he should sit out by the coaches could keep him off the field.
“That’s a lot,” said McMillian when asked if being a leader helped him play through it. “That’s my senior year and I just want to go out there, have fun and make memories. And you can’t make memories sitting on the sideline. They laughed and were like ‘You ain’t gonna play’ and I’m like, I laughed back, I said ‘I bet I do’.”
McMillian’s defense raised the standard in a big way after their performance against UMASS in the opener. The linebacker echoed the sentiments of several of his teams when he commented on the level of competition that the Gators faced and indicated that the team came away smarter and better prepared after the lackluster effort against an opponent from the Mid Atlantic Conference.
“We just got to make sure we don’t play to their standard and play to ours, and just push each other, instead of like worrying about the name of our opponent.”
Due to several perplexing recruiting classes at his position under the previous regime, freshmen are being counted on to play meaningful snaps from the very beginning. McMillian, who contributed mainly on special teams as a true freshman, is pleased by what he has seen from the newcomers, particularly Vosean Joseph. He says that the freshman has a nose for the ball, something that will serve him well during his time in Orange and Blue.
With the nickel formation requiring only two linebackers and its occurrence becoming more frequent, McMillian often finds himself as the odd man out to two guys from his signing class. Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis have played some of their best football since arriving on campus four years ago and McMillian, with the wisdom of a senior, finds the positive in the situation. If they can do it, why not him?
“They are playing very well. They are playing to a level that us in the linebacker room, we’re all trying to play to that level. So we all push each other. Whoever’s doing well, we’re all like, ‘OK, cool.’ Next week, I’m going to try to do what you did. So we’re just competing against each other and having fun with it.”