Being a part of a football program like Alabama has its perks. One of the biggest? Being NFL-ready come draft day, according to Dee Milliner.
“I think it just helps out a lot, just to have a coach who coached in the NFL, he knows what to expect, what NFL teams look at in players,” said Milliner, who was the first of the Jets’ two first-round selections Thursday night. “And then the way we go about getting better each day, the way offensive and defensive schemes are, I think it’s an NFL-type. So it just prepares us well. And the competition in the SEC that we go up against each week.”
“…I know (Alabama) prepares you well. …Just the way we practice – we practice hard, always go 1s-on-1s against each other. And coach (Nick) Saban is always going to coach you up, be hard on you trying to get you better.”
Milliner, a graduate of the Saban School of media training, was far more reserved than his new teammate Sheldon Richardson (the 13th overall pick) during Friday’s press conference. But his intensity and passion for football was evident when he talked about playing through a torn labrum this season. The former ‘Bama corner, who has undergone five medical procedures in total, put off shoulder surgery until after the Crimson Tide’s title run.
“All the surgeries were nothing major,” said Milliner. “All of them were minor. I don’t like to miss games. I just try to go out there and if I’m in the game, play like I have no injuries. You’ve got to make some sacrifices. If it ain’t nothing major, play in the game.”
Even a torn labrum is no big deal to Milliner.
“It wasn't that bad,” he said. “It wasn’t like my arm was hanging off or broke. So I could go out there and do something.”
And that toughness is one of the reasons the Jets are high on Milliner.
“We did a lot of work on Dee,” senior personnel executive Terry Bradway said after Thursday’s first round. “Our coaches did a great job when we brought him in here. Our scouts, especially our area (scout) Jay Mandolesi, we did a lot of work on Dee. (Scouting director) Jeff (Bauer) and I had an opportunity to see him.
“He’s a big cornerback who can play press (and) who can play off. He’s a good tackler. He’s probably as complete of a corner as there is in this draft. To have the ability to take him at nine was good. We look for him to come in here like everyone else and compete, and hopefully win the job.”
Milliner wasn’t always a cornerback. In fact, he said he played just two games at corner in high school and was used primarily on offense as a running back and receiver. He also played safety. But now, Milliner said, the thrill of playing cornerback trumps everything else.
“Cause you get to hit. You get to beat up on people,” he said with a smile. “If you play offense, you only get to catch the ball and then get hit. I wanted to go on defense so I could put some hands on receivers and come up on some ball carriers.”
And the former Alabama star knows Ryan will demand that same physical play on Sundays. Especially from his cornerbacks.
“He’s going to be hard on his players,” Milliner said of Ryan. “And at corner, he likes to be aggressive; in your face, press’em up. So that fits the same thing that I did and I’m used to. So I just know that I’ll fit in.”