LSU put Jalen Mills in a corner during Media Day.
He occupied the final chair Sunday on a long row of defensive players lining the west side of the indoor practice facility. A sports information assistant hovered behind him, ensuring that reporters didn’t delve too deep into the legal matter still hanging over his head.
It was the first time he spoke publicly since being arrested on June 11 for allegedly hitting a woman. Les Miles immediately suspended him from the team but reinstated him on the opening day of fall camp once his charges were reduced to simple battery, a misdemeanor.
Mills refused to discuss the specifics of the incident, politely declining to comment when asked if this situation would’ve played out differently had he been more cooperative with police.
“I really don’t know if I can talk about that, with all due respect, sir,” Mills said.
But he didn’t hide behind silence. Mills was open about the lessons he’s learned since nearly losing his promising football career.
“When everything happened, it happened so fast,” Mills said. “I didn’t know what I’d be able to do a month and a half ago. If I had a second chance, I wouldn’t have myself in this predicament. I wouldn’t cause this much confusion on the team.”
Mills spent most of the last two months away from his teammates. He was barred from the LSU football facility, not allowed to work out or play in 7-on-7 scrimmages. Instead he trained at the University Recreation Complex, lifting weights alongside regular students.
He admits that he’s lost a bit of on-field chemistry with his teammates after missing the entire summer. It made the first week of fall camp a bit “rough.”
“I had to get back in the swing of things, and I had to do it fast,” Mills said. “Just because those guys let me back on the team, they still have high expectations for me.”
Mills still has a long road ahead of him. His lawyer has said they intend to take his case to trial, meaning this will hang in the back of his mind for the foreseeable future.
But at least he has football, the one steady force for which he has a newfound appreciation.
“It’s just a learning experience,” Mills said. “I’m learning from it right now. I have to keep moving forward and keep pushing. I have to try to stay focused on just football right now.”
Mills’ story has become all too common at LSU and across college football. From Jordan Jefferson to Jeremy Hill, an offseason can’t pass without some misstep stealing the headlines. And this particular story is far from over.
Mills will likely face some kind of suspension once the regular season starts. He said he’s at Miles’ mercy, willing to accept whatever remaining discipline will come his way.
Now he hopes to be a cautionary tale. Miles has brought in people in the past to talk to his team about avoiding situations like the one in which Mills found himself. Mills may not have paid attention before, but he doesn’t want to see another teammate fall.
“Listen to those people,” Mills said, “because you never know what can happen.”
Jalen Mills thankful to be back
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