“It’s a dream come true. All I wanted was a chance.”
Now, Darius Millines has that chance. Millines reportedly signed a deal with the Oakland Raiders following the draft Saturday, and will have a chance to earn a spot on an NFL roster.
“(They) told me that (they) came to the pro day at (CSU) Pueblo, and that they had a spot for me,” Millines said.
Millines’ road to the NFL was full of twists and turns, and deserves the shot that he’s getting. Below is my feature on Millines’ journey to where he is today:
A football life can be compared to a football game.
In the first quarter, the player comes onto the field full of energy, sizing up his opponents and testing how his skills can be utilized.
In the second quarter, the player could have tasted both success and failures; maybe they’ve scored a touchdown and fumbled a time or two.
By the third quarter, they have had time to reflect on the first half, regroup, and come back onto the field with the goal of victory in their sights.
Darius Millines is in the third quarter of his football life.
Millines is a senior wide receiver for the Colorado State University-Pueblo ThunderWolves, and is coming out of his own metaphorical first half with a clear mind, fresh legs and steady hands.
Millines began the first quarter in Boynton Beach, Fla., as the youngest of five children. Entering his freshman year at American Heritage High School, he was conflicted on what position he was going to play.
“I had a decision to make between being a junior varsity running back, or a varstiy wide receiver,” Millines said. “All throughout my life I had played running back, I never saw myself as being a wide receiver.”
Millines ultimately chose to play as a running back on the junior varsity squad, and then move up to varsity the next season.
By the time the next season began, Millines’ plans changed again, as he was moved to defense and was the team’s “nickel back,” an extra cornerback when the defense is in what is known as the nickel package.
It wasn’t until Millines’ junior season that he played his first snaps at wide receiver, and by his senior campaign he was being heavily recruited by over 40 colleges.
“I was committed to West Virginia University for six months,” Millines said. “After a coaching change, I decommitted and took a visit at Marshall and Illinois. I saw a big opportunity at Illinois, and I decided to go there.”
While at Illinois, Millines officially began his second quarter. He had taken the next step, and was playing on college football’s biggest stage.
“Sometimes to this day, I still can’t believe I was playing at a Division I school, and in the Big 10,” Millines said.
Not only was he playing at Illinois, but he was playing well.
Millines played in 32 games as a Fighting Illini, and was the team’s second leading receiver in 2012. During his time at Illinois, he hauled in catches, returned kicks and even completed a pass against UCLA in 2011. His career started quickly, catching a touchdown pass on his first collegiate reception in a game against Purdue.
Millines was seeing success in the second quarter of his football life, but before halftime would roll around, much like anyone who has handled a football, he would fumble.
After his junior season at Illinois, Millines and one of his teammates were released from the team, due to “unspecified rules violations.”
Given his recent past though, Darius has refused to dwell on what has passed, and instead embrace to his fresh start.
“I made mistakes that are stepping stones for me,” said Millines, who also went on to say that he has had a good experience at CSU-Pueblo to date.
Millines is now in the third quarter, with his journey bringing him to a successful ThunderWolves squad that he became familiar with through junior cornerback C.J. Roberts, whom Millines grew up with in Florida.
“We all grew up together, and I knew they were at a powerhouse Division II school,” Millines said of Roberts, safety Jarrod Lacy and defensive back Mannie Rathell. “When I was talking to coach Wristen, I already knew this is where I was going to be.”
Millines has contributed a 27.5 yards-per-catch average so far on the young season for the ThunderWolves, adding to a potent passing attack that is among the most efficient in the nation.
For the future, Millines looks forward to having a fourth quarter that includes a National Football League career and a college degree. He attributes his motivation to his family and humble beginnings, noting that the tribulations they have been through makes him want to be that much more successful.
For now, Millines is making the most of his fresh second-half start at CSU-Pueblo.
“It’s very different coming from a school that had 40,000 students,” Millines said. “But I still like it. I love the fans here too, by the way”