COLUMBUS — One of Ohio State middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan’s main responsibilities is stopping running backs, but there was a time when college coaches tried to convince him he could run the ball for them.
Even though he was a standout on offense as well as defense in Hinesville, Ga., in high school, he’s still not entirely convinced they really meant it.
“I played both sides of the ball in high school. I got contacts from many schools about playing running back,” McMillan said earlier this week.
“Wisconsin’s coach actually messaged me a couple times. But I think he was just playing and trying to get me there to play linebacker,” he said.
The most obvious mixed messages came from schools where the head coach would talk about him playing running back but eventually the linebackers coach eventually would get on the phone, McMillan said, with a laugh.
McMillan played nearly starter’s minutes last season as a back-up to senior starter Curtis Grant and had 54 tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception.
Four games into this season, he leads OSU with 40 tackles after having 16 of them in a 38-12 win over Western Michigan last week.
Despite his career-best 16 tackles, McMillan was far from satisfied with how he played. “My coach and I didn’t feel like I played like I could have played. I missed two tackles. Personally, I don’t feel like I played that good,” he said.
Ohio State saw him as a linebacker from the time it entered a recruiting battle with Alabama to win over the 5-star prospect.
Before last season, McMillan talked about how Urban Meyer told him OSU needed linebackers and that he “wanted his type of guy here playing linebacker.”
His decision finally came down to McMillan choosing to be different. And coming from where he did, that meant spurning the Southeastern Conference and choosing Ohio State.
“Everybody was pressuring me to go to Alabama and I didn’t want to do what everybody wanted me to do. I wanted to be different a little bit,” he said.
“My mom gave me some of the best advice. And my high school coach, too, even though he went to the University of Georgia. He told me to make the best decision for myself for 40 years, not just four years,” McMillan said.
Seeing Ohio State ranked No. 1 and Michigan State No. 2 is even more reason for McMillan to feel his choice has been validated.
“I’m from SEC country, but just seeing our conference build and improve on what we did last year is great for the conference totally,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.