Commentary

Milliner earns UA All-American honor

Originally Published: October 17, 2009
By Erik Stinnett | CrimsonConfidential.com

MILLBROOK, Ala. -- He looked like a regular high school kid wearing a regular sports windbreaker. No attention-drawing physique underneath that windbreaker. No noticeable tattoos. No earring. No air of superiority. He didn't speak much, and when he did, he spoke softly and politely.

Some 10 hours before Stanhhope Elmore's DeMarcus Milliner and his teammates were to take the field against Lee on Friday night, Milliner was honored for his selection to the 2010 Under Armour All-American Game during a fieldhouse ceremony. He was presented an honorary game jersey.

Milliner is a throwback player who lets his play on the field do all his talking for him. The 6-foot, 185-pound Milliner is ESPN's No. 2 rated cornerback prospect in the country, and the top prospect in the state of Alabama.

Truth be told, the Millbrook product could be a top prospect at any number of positions -- except perhaps along the offensive or defensive lines. Long known for his remarkable speed, Milliner is a pure athlete. He's the kid who is naturally good at everything involving any muscle group. The kid you take bowling for the first time, and he rolls a 218.

That's Milliner.

Milliner's father, James, recalls his son's scoring three touchdowns in one of his first football games at the age of 6.

"He blew everyone away," James said.

Milliner did the same on the hardwood. In one game, at a young age, he scored 30 points in a 35-30 win, draining 3-pointer after 3-pointer. Playing baseball as a 9-year-old, he was outrunning players on a 12-year-old team.

"He just has God-given talent," James said.

And a Michael Jordan-like drive to go with it.

Milliner has always wanted to be the best in everything -- whether it's leading his team to victory or finishing first in running laps after practice. Early on, though, that thirst for excellence didn't manifest itself too well.

"Growing up, he had an attitude that was out of this world," his father said. "If he struck out in baseball, he would throw his bat down. If he didn't score a touchdown on a run, he would get mad. By around the age of 12 or 13, he started growing out of that."

Well, growing out of the in-game temper-tantrums anyway.

Milliner's determination to excel remains fully intact today. Charlie Long, a teammate of Milliner's since the two were first-graders, said his longtime friend works hard in the weight room, watches film and loves to pick the brains of the coaches.

"He's always wanting to correct things in his game and see where he can do better," Long said.

Long said he basically views Milliner as a "coach wearing a uniform."

James Milliner, who served as an assistant coach on many of his son's youth teams, agrees.

"He just knows football," James said of Demarcus. "He does the right things at the right time."

For Stanhope Elmore coach Jeff Foshee, getting to coach Demarcus, who has started for the Mustangs since he was a freshman, has been a unique opportunity the past four autumns.

"When you have a guy like that, it makes your coaching job a whole lot easier," Foshee said. "He has a great knack for the game, and he's a whole lot of fun to coach. He's a great player, and he's helped us win a lot of ballgames."

Foshee remembers a game last season when scouts from a recruiting service were in attendance to watch Milliner. Milliner, knowing he was under the microscope, didn't disappoint.

"I think he returned an interception for a touchdown, and he had like 170 yards on four or five carries," Foshee said. "It was just one of those nights when it seemed like every time he touched the ball, he got in the end zone."

The area Milliner has improved in the most from last year to this year is his leadership, Foshee said.

"Sometimes I wish he'd say a little bit more, but most of the time he does it both with his actions and his words," the coach said.

The coveted recruit is scheduled to graduate from high school early and enroll at Alabama in January. Milliner, who basically had his pick of where he wanted to go for college, chose the Crimson Tide back in June.

"I picked Alabama because the head coach [Nick Saban] and my position coach [Kirby Smart] are very hands-on and because of the tradition," Milliner said. "I did it when I did because I knew where I was going to go and I wanted to go ahead and get all the pressure and hype over with."

Making a national televison appearance in the Under Armour All-American Game, which will air on ESPN on Jan. 2, 2010, is an opportunity that excites Milliner.

"I'm looking forward to getting to meet new players and getting to compete against top talent," Milliner said of the game.

Foshee couldn't be more proud of his star athlete for earning the opportunity to participate in such a prestigious event.

"We've never had anybody even come close to getting this type of recognition," said the coach, who will also participate in the game as one of the team's assistant coaches. "It's great for him, great for our program and great for our school and community."

As far as Foshee is concerned, Milliner has a lot of good football days ahead of him.

"If he stays healthy and continues to work and do the things he's doing now, I can see him playing in the NFL someday," he said.

For now, though, Milliner seems content just being a regular high school kid wearing a windbreaker.

At least when he's not on the field.

"He doesn't have the big head or anything," James said. "He seems very level-headed and has handled all the attention nicely. It's like his mom tells him all the time, 'You've got to humble yourself.' And that's what he does."

Erik Stinnett is the senior writer for CrimsonConfidential.com.