Jordan Mills was a pleasant surprise for the Chicago Bears last season. After being selected in the fifth round out of Louisiana Tech, Mills emerged as the club's No. 1 right tackle, starting all 16 contests his rookie year.
In the season finale, Mills lasted just one series before a broken foot sent him to the sidelines for the remainder of the contest. Mills today was the rookie recipient of the team's Brian Piccolo Award, voted on by his teammates as the player who best exemplifies courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor.
As far as dedication and courage are concerned, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, who introduced Mills, told a revealing story about his second-year right tackle.
"Jordan Mills steps in at right tackle as a rookie, a fifth-round pick, starts every play until the Green Bay game, and he starts that game as well," Kromer said at Halas Hall. "It's the 16th game of the year, we're playing the Green Bay Packers.
"Mills goes out to start his last regular season game of his rookie year, and the courage that this guy has: he breaks his foot in pregame. He shakes it off, he goes in, he tapes it, he comes back out and he plays. He comes off and he says, 'My foot's broken.' I said, ‘When did you break your foot?' He says, ‘Pregame.' I said 'How do you break your foot and play in the first series?'
"But that's the courage that he exemplifies."
Kyle Long confirmed the incident.
"The story that coach Kromer was telling that's a true story," Long said. "He broke his foot in the pregame. He was like, ‘My foot doesn't feel right, but we're going to go out there and give it run.' He almost had to get pulled out of the game. That's just the kind of guy he is. He doesn't want to let his teammates down."
Mills downplayed the incident, although he did reveal his anxiety about coming out of the game.
"Warming up before we even put pads on, I felt a little pop but I didn't pay any attention to it. My adrenalin was pumping anyway, pivotal game for going to the playoffs so I wasn't really paying attention to it," Mills said. "But when I went on the field it became numb and I couldn't walk on it. Eben Britton did an excellent, excellent job of coming in and playing. I was in the locker room just losing my mind with the fact that I wasn't out there with my brothers trying to get the win."
Mills had surgery to repair the broken foot following the campaign and is slated to be fully healthy once the team begins offseason activities.
"My foot's doing good," Mills said. "The training staff's been doing great ever since it was broken and I was having surgery. They kept me upright and my head on straight and got after it."I'm doing everything, lifting weights, running around a little bit, doing some light jogging. They don't want me to go full speed yet until we start OTAs but right now I'm doing everything everybody's doing in the weight room, cardio, and when OTA's kick off, I'll be full speed. "It's going to be a good spring."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.