Former NFL safety standout Mark McMillian has spent his spare time introducing his younger embodiment Mark McMillian Jr. out of Gilbert (Ariz.) Williams Field High to the college football recruiting world, and there’s already one university with a key connection to the McMillian household that could help boost the son’s chances of landing his first Football Bowl Subdivision offer. Surprisingly, it’s actually not the University of Alabama, the father’s alma mater.
It’s the place that awarded the eight-year NFL safety with his first college football scholarship offer and where his ex-Crimson Tide teammate now coaches at: Fresno State.
McMillian – who once patrolled the secondary with the Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins - told Barkboard that he was once the recipient of a scholarship opportunity from the Bulldogs in 1990 when Jim Sweeney roamed the sidelines and during a time when Rod Perry was the defensive backs coach, who tried recruiting McMillian to FS. Also, McMillian once suited up with new Bulldog defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward during the time they were at Bryant Denny Stadium.
“I’ve always had mad respect for Sweeney,” McMillian said. As for Ward, McMillian said the moment that he heard his former ‘Bama teammate landed the Fresno State defensive coordinator job, he immediately started pitching his own players to the new defensive leader, including his wide receiver son.
“I actually text him about two to three times a month and spoke with him last week. I’ve told him about my kids,” McMillian said. “He (Ward) has been coached and mentored by some great coaches including Frank Beamer (former Virginia Tech head coach) and Steve Spurrier (former South Carolina head coach). He likes to attack on defense.”
The father’s mutual connection with Ward helps intrigue the younger McMillian about Fresno State, as the 6-foot-2, 160-pound wide receiver – who holds a 3.0 grade point average and runs a reported 40-yard dash time of 4.6 - gets ready to tackle both the 2016-17 season grind in the desert and his own recruiting process. Outside of the FS possibility, the incoming junior has made his rounds at the following campuses through unofficial visits: San Diego State, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado State, Colorado and Michigan.
McMillian Jr. said that he already likes Fresno State’s tradition of producing NFL caliber wideouts including Davante Adams, Stephone Paige, Bernard Berrian and Henry Ellard.
“Definitely, can’t forget about those legends,” McMillian Jr. said.
While he hasn’t been formally introduced to Ward yet, McMillian Jr. has heard about Ward’s coaching abilities through his father, which has piqued the Class of 2018 prospect’s interest.
“His character (I like). Plus he’ll tell you straight up how he feels and he knows what he’s talking about,” McMillian Jr. said.
The younger McMillian has spent his off-season perfecting his route running and using his size to his advantage. He’s developed a double move to shake off cornerbacks in an effort to get open, plus created a smooth plant-and-go on the field that gives him breathing room against defenders in the end zone. Two areas he’s trying to enhance are his feet – especially after the snap – and using hand technique to shed past cornerbacks trying to jam him at the line of scrimmage.
“I’m going to do whatever it takes to win,” McMillian Jr. said. “I’m not a guy who cares about stats. I’m going to be a good teammate all-around.”
Along with picking his father’s brain about pinpointing weaknesses in the secondary and learning the game from him, McMillian Jr. has also latched on with Kerry Taylor, a free agent NFL receiver from Arizona State.
“He’s getting me to be functionally stronger,” McMillian Jr. said.
As the son blazes his own path, he still turns to his father for advice on handling the recruiting rigors and finishing out with a strong prep career.
“He tells me to stay eligible, have a life outside of football, keep my family close and not get cocky,” McMillian Jr. said. “He helps me mentally and physically.”
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