When it comes to Nos. 1 through 9 on the Ohio State roster, there are 15 scholarship players sporting those single digits that seem to pop so much. Every number from 1 through 6 has two scholarship players wearing it, with some actively seeking out those numbers.
They don’t just give those numbers to anyone, either. There’s the Buckeyes’ leading receiver from last year, Mike Thomas, with 3. There’s hot shot freshman Torrance Gibson wearing No. 6. Potential starters wear many of the other numbers, all highly recruited athletes – No. 3 Damon Arnette is the only three-star among the single-digit brigade.
Get that number early and things can be expected. So when Raekwon McMillan arrived a year ago and was given the No. 5, that had to be a good sign for his future, and it was as he made 54 tackles and 6.5 TFL in his debut campaign. But on top of that, the number had a little extra meaning for the Georgia standout.
“Braxton Miller is one of the reasons that I came here,” McMillan said. “Most of the guys on the team were like, ‘Man, I want to play with Braxton Miller one day.’ Seeing him across the field, it’s like, ‘Man, this guy is really out here right now.’ ”
Yes, Miller has had that impact. He has always been a prodigal son to many Buckeye fans, a star who committed early and served as the face of the franchise for the better part of three years. But his appeal as a two-time Big Ten MVP and near Heisman finalist stretched all across college football – at least as far south as southeastern Georgia, where McMillan was one of the top 50 players in his recruiting class according to Scout.com.
So imagine how McMillan felt when he arrived, looked in his locker and got No. 5.
“That wasn’t even my decision, but it was pretty cool,” McMillan said. “Sometimes before games (last year), he would tell me, ‘What’s up 5?’
“It wasn’t even my plan to wear No. 5. I came here wanting to wear 2 or something like that. I got to wear it eventually in the national championship game, but once I got here and wore 5, I was like, ‘OK.’”
Of course, the world has changed since McMillan first arrived at Ohio State. He was the Buckeyes’ defensive No. 5 to Miller’s offensive 5, but the OSU quarterback went down with a shoulder injury a year ago. He’s now No. 1 and plays wide receiver, but he’s still the kind of guy that moves the needle with whatever he does. More than 8,000 career yards and 80 touchdowns will do that.
And now, Mc Millan gets the chance to tackle him throughout camp and practices all season. He won’t wear the same number anymore, but the man who helped bring him here is now perhaps the toughest man to chase down on a daily basis.
“He’s a superstar player, man,” McMillan said. “As a recruit, you’re thinking, ‘I want to play with the best players in the nation.’ He’s one of the best guys. He was a Heisman candidate. It’s awesome to play against him.”