Chargers safety Milligan updates his injury status

Hanik Milligan was turning heads in Carson for all the right reasons. His 6-2 frame was imposing in the secondary and he just seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Milligan had elevated his play to the point that he was looking to be a contributing factor after being claimed in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers. Then came the injury…<br><br> A torn pectoral muscle in August derailed a promising season. Now he updates us on his progress.

"I am recovering pretty well," Hanik Milligan said. "The trainers did a great job to help me through the course of the year."

Given the leaps and bounds that he progressed through camp from rookie relegated to special teams duty to making plays on the field, it had to be frustrating.

"Very frustrating." said Milligan. "I worked hard to move up on the depth chart and give all I got. I was telling the guys throughout the whole process to keep me focused and keep me hungry – not to be discouraged by anything."

Milligan was a big part of the reason Ryan McNeil was released in August of 2003. His play began to standout on special teams. His work ethic in drills got him noticed as he was constantly the first one down field in position to make a tackle. During one session in camp, when the team was practicing onside kick drills, Milligan got his hands on two consecutive kicks. From there it spurned into an increased workload.

Soon he was on the field showing what he could do in coverage. Marty Schottenheimer had been spending quite a lot of time in camp watching the progress of the rookies and made it a point to single out Milligan and start helping him take it to the next level.

"At first I wasn't getting in too much," Milligan said. "I just kept working hard and didn't give up."

That is the attitude that eventually led to the surprise of camp.

On August 12th, McNeil was officially released. One day later the injuries began. Milligan was forced temporarily to the sidelines with back spasms.

Upon his return, he picked off a pass in camp drills and really started to show his frame was more than just show. With only two healthy bodies at strong safety, Milligan was pushing for playing time.

In a preseason game against Houston, Milligan suffered a torn pectoral muscle and was placed on injured reserve the next day after successful surgery.

What was the recovery time on your injury when you had surgery?

"I think they had said three months. That was part of the decision to put me on injured reserve."

Three months would have put him back on the field in late November and then there was the assimilation back into the defense. Instead of sulking about the lost season, Milligan began studying for the future. He spent time in the film room and talked to his coaches and teammates.

"I was in the room watching film," Milligan said. "I went in voluntarily and watched game film with the team, watched preparation throughout the week. I was talking to the guys, but mostly I was talking to my coaches."

"I got some tips from Kwamie Lassiter. Coach Holmes really helped me out because my technique wasn't that good. Those are the guys that helped me through it and pulling information from other players like Donnie Edwards. You are out there watching guys like LT work, how their love for the game is and kind of just buying in.

It has been said that Ray Lewis in Baltimore exudes an aura that makes everyone else practice and play harder. LaDainian Tomlinson, LT, is the same way in San Diego. Buying in to the effort that is needed to not only make the team but make a difference is what he taught Milligan. The strides he made in camp were no coincidence, but the product of hard work and a will to succeed, learned from select veterans.

Milligan may have been one of the few to buy in early. His learning curve was accelerated and he seemed to get it quicker than others. That will help him going into next season.

Milligan is healthy now and has resumed working out.

"I think I am 100 percent," Milligan said. "The goal is just to get stronger, faster, smarter and just prepare myself as much as possible to help the team as much as I can next year and get the Chargers a Championship."

A rookie with this much pride and passion is a revelation. Let's hope his dreams come true.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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