One of the prospects Urban Meyer and the Ohio State coaches had on their recruiting board from day one was Hinesville (GA) Liberty County linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who received an offer from the Buckeyes following his sophomore season, while on an unofficial visit to Columbus. From there, the standout linebacker took multiple visits to Columbus before eventually committing to Ohio State in December of 2013.
Take a trip down memory lane and find out what kind of early impact he could have for the Buckeyes, as we bring you "Bucks to the Future", the Raekwon McMillan story.
Weight: 242 pounds
24/7 Composite: 1st rated inside linebacker, 2nd ranked player from the state of Georgia, and 22nd overall prospect in the 2014 class.
High School: Liberty County High School, Hinesville, Georgia
Following a strong sophomore campaign, where he tallied 84 tackles, 16 of which were for loss, McMillan picked up scholarship offers from some of the nation's top schools including the likes of Ohio State, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Notre Dame, Oregon, Stanford, USC, and countless others.
To this day I remember talking to McMillan, as he and his family were driving home after making their first trip to Columbus where Raekwon received an offer from Ohio State. He was one of the first recruits I had ever spoken to as I was brand new to the recruiting business. I remember his phone died just as we were finishing our conversation, but I was still able to get plenty of good information from him. Here's what he had to say about his first trip to Columbus:
"I really liked Ohio State. I got to see the academic side of the school, the facilities were great, and it was really cool getting to go on the field," he said. "I also really enjoyed meeting and talking with the coaches, especially coach Meyer. It was really nice getting to go to Ohio as well because I had never been there before."
After our first conversation, I immediately thought he would be part of this recruiting class as long as he and the coaching staff maintained a strong relationship.
McMillan made his second visit to Ohio State for the first annual "Friday Night Lights" football camp. He didn't participate in any drills, but was able to spend a couple of days with Buckeye commits, targets, and current players while in Columbus. After the visit, he told me he had a great time, which put Ohio State and in-state Georgia tied at the top of his list.
"When I got there Thursday night, I met up with Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant. They gave me a lot of good advice," he said. "Se'Von Pittman also came through. Braxton Miller stopped by as well, and we talked for a while. He gave me some really good advice. Friday, we chilled at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center before Friday Night Lights."
"Just getting to soak in the Ohio State environment and getting to see if the college is for me," he continued. "I think really highly of Ohio State."
The original plan was for McMillan to attend the 2012 Ohio State-Purdue game (which would've been a great one to be in attendance for), but the hype surrounding the Ohio State-Michigan game was too much for the highly touted prospect to pass up, so he announced after Friday Night Lights that he would be seeing one the biggest rivalries in sports in person. He obviously loved his experience at the game and that's exactly what he told me following his third trip to Columbus — his first visit for a game.
"It was a great visit. I got to go to one of the best rivalries of all time, McMillan said. "The atmosphere for the game was awesome."
"(I got to spend time with) Coach (Urban) Meyer, Coach (Luke) Fickell, and Coach (Everett) Withers. They all gave me great attention even though it wasn't my official visit. Coach Meyer pulled me aside and talked to me three or four times over the visit," he said. "They told me Ohio State is a prestigious university and said they are thin at linebacker and really need to add more at that position."
Following the visit, he had the Buckeyes in the lead, with Clemson and Georgia fighting for the number two spot. Other schools among his favorites included Alabama and Notre Dame.
Ohio State was still in the lead for McMillan's services when he came to Columbus for a fourth time last April, just about a year after his first visit to Ohio State where he received his offer. He had another awesome visit and like in previous instances, had great things to say about the trip.
"I went up there mainly to get a chance to sit down with Coach Meyer and talk about the Ohio State program. I also got to meet Anthony Schlegel, the guy linebackers work out with in the offseason when they can't be instructed by Coach Fickell. In addition to that, I got the chance to meet the athletic director, Gene Smith, Archie Griffin, and Bobby Carpenter," he said. "My favorite part of the visit was sitting down with Coach Meyer. We had a really long talk about the two championships he won at Florida. He told me when he won them that Tim Tebow wasn't the first person he handed the crystal ball to. The first person he handed it to was his middle linebacker, Brandon Spikes. Coach Meyer is an offensive-minded guy, but he also knows the importance of defense."
"I love the feeling I get when I'm on campus, McMillan said. "I can definitely picture myself playing for Ohio State."
After this visit, the standout linebacker told me he wouldn't necessarily be announcing his decision at the Under Armour All-America Game, which was the planned decision date for around a year, and while that was still an option, he was now considering a December decision date.
Following this visit, he started to maintain a lower profile regarding recruiting. He attended two prestigious camps over the summer, the Rivals 100 camp and Nike's "The Opening". Towards the end of the summer, he made his fifth trip to Columbus for Ohio State's annual Friday Night Lights camp, where he got to enjoy the intense atmosphere for a second time.
McMillan then made an unofficial visit to Clemson during the first weekend of the 2013 college football season, and soon started taking his official visits. The first was a short trip to Athens, Georgia, where he watched the in-state Bulldogs knock off the LSU Tigers. Next came his official visit to Ohio State, which was the last time he would be in Columbus before making his decision. He got to see the Buckeyes whip Penn State to the tune of 63-14. After that, he made the trek to Tuscaloosa to watch the Crimson Tide beat up on LSU by a score of 38-17. His second-to-last trip was to Clemson, where he watched the Tigers blow out lowly Citadel 52-6. Finally he wrapped up his official visits by going to the Iron Bowl, which was probably the college football game of the year, when Auburn upset Alabama on a 109-yard return for a touchdown off a missed Crimson Tide field goal as time expired.
McMillan then had a couple of weeks to think leading into his decision that was set for Dec. 16, 2013. The last coach to hold an in-home visit with him was none other than Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, who was in the McMillan household on the eve of McMillan's college decision.
Heading into the decision day, there was a lot of buzz that Alabama was trending for the five-star linebacker. It looked like he goes going to Bama for a split second as he reached for the Crimson Tide hat, picked it up, but then he set it back down and put the Ohio State hat on, announcing he was going to "Roll with Ohio State". This commitment was absolutely huge for Urban Meyer and his staff.
THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY 🅾— Raekwon McMillan™ (@Kwon_daTRUTH) December 16, 2013
I am official commited to THE Ohio State University . #GoBucks— Raekwon McMillan™ (@Kwon_daTRUTH) December 16, 2013
Many of his future teammates were also very excited about his commitment and some of them even got into a little trouble after celebrating the big news in class.
My phone got taken away in class today thanks to @Kwon_daTRUTH— Dante Booker Jr. (@D_Book47) December 17, 2013
LET'S GO!!!!!!! almost yelled in class! Dream 14 baby!— BIG ❌EECH (@Meech_Dream14) December 16, 2013
The Dream 14 ✊— QBKILLA!!! #⃣1⃣1⃣ (@JayHolmes_) December 16, 2013
His remarkable recruiting story came to an end just a couple of weeks ago, as he began enrolling in classes at Ohio State for the spring semester, officially becoming a part of the Ohio State football program. Just a few days before moving into his dorm on campus, he shared his favorite memory of his recruitment: "The best part of recruiting for me was seeing my transformation from a prospect to a football player."
Not only is Ohio State getting a top-notch football player, who will dazzle fans in the 'Shoe for years to come, but they are also getting a very nice, well-spoken, and humble young man.
McMillan headlines a very impressive crop of linebackers that also features the likes of Dante Booker Jr., Kyle Berger, and Sam Hubbard.
While I think people are too liberal throwing around "That guy can definitely come in and make an immediate impact!", I actually do think this is the case when it comes to McMillan as the Buckeyes are pretty thin at the linebacker position, especially after the departure of All-American Ryan Shazier, who decided he would forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.
Ohio State is returning two starters in the form of inside linebacker Curtis Grant and outside linebacker Joshua Perry. While my gut says sophomore Trey Johnson claims the vacant spot on the outside, I could definitely see McMillan challenging Curtis Grant for the inside linebacker spot. Grant has been solid, but not great so far in his Ohio State career.
He will have the benefit of working with Ohio State strength coach Mickey Marotti for the next couple of months and will also be able to participate in spring practices, in addition to the annual spring game, which is set to take place on April 12 in Columbus, after being played in Cincinnati last year. McMillan already has the size, strength, tackling ability, and athleticism needed to be a productive linebacker at the college level. Even if he doesn't make a huge impact this year, I'd definitely expect him to make a big splash at some point in his career as a Buckeye.
Obligatory GIF, Highlights
Are you serious?
McMillan absolutely dominated Georgia high school football during his junior and senior seasons. As a junior, he racked up 152 tackles, 22 of which were for loss. Then he took things to another level as a senior, tallying 159 tackles, an eye-popping 35 of which came for loss, to go along with 8.5 sacks, 1 interception, and 3 forced fumbles.
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