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Ohio State’s Raekwon McMillan talks NFL Draft prep, Buckeye memories

We check in with the former Buckeye star as the NFL Draft draws near.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Raekwon McMillan, the middle linebacker who starred on Ohio State’s elite defensive unit for the last two-plus seasons, will soon find out the NFL team he’ll call home. His career as a Buckeye was a prolific one, from helping secure a national title to his All-Big Ten accolades to being named a second team All-American last season as one of Urban Meyer’s captains. He also led the team in tackles in his final season in Columbus.

Having accomplished just about everything imaginable in his three years as a Buckeye, McMillan declared for the NFL Draft at the end of the 2016 season. With that marquee event looming large, Raekwon was kind enough to chat with us about his past, present, and future in football. (Note: Remarks lightly edited for clarity. This interview was conducted courtesy of Panini America, who are promoting McMillan’s first ever NFL Draft card.)

Land-Grant Holy Land: You were a consensus 5-star recruit coming out of high school, and you racked up a ton of awards and attention in college. Has the pressure of expectation ever gotten to you during your career?

Raekwon McMillan: No, never. At Ohio State I was surrounded by a great group of guys who kept me grounded, kept me on track. They helped me tune out what everyone else was saying about me.

LGHL: Different football sites have pegged you as anything from a late 1st-rounder to a late 3rd-rounder in the draft. Are you worried at all about where you’ll fall? Will the place you’re taken affect your outlook heading into camp at all?

McMillan: I’m not worried at all, either way it goes. Any team that drafts me will put themselves in a very promising situation—I’m a hard worker. And I’m going into camp with the same attitude no matter where I get taken. Okay, maybe with a little chip on my shoulder [laughs], but that’s about it.

(McMillan may not know where he’ll be drafted, but he has already inked a deal with Panini trading cards, regardless of where he ends up.)

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

LGHL: There’s been some chatter on draft sites that your new team might ask you to shift outside to fit their scheme. How do you feel about that prospect?

McMillan: Man, whatever they ask me to do, I’ll do it. I’ll play safety if they want—I’ll get the job done.

LGHL: Besides having to talk to bloggers on the phone, what’s been the weirdest part about NFL Draft prep for you so far?

McMillan: Just all the physical evaluations. There are 20 or 30 teams evaluating your body, and it’s just weird because at the end of the day they’re going to take you because you’re a football player, not because of your body. So that part, the evaluations, was definitely weird.

LGHL: Looking back, is there a particular play or moment that stands out to you as your best at Ohio State?

McMillan: Oh, definitely the [2016] game against Michigan, when Malik Hooker and I combined to get the ball in the end zone. That was such a special moment for me.

(Fans might remember that play as the one where McMillan blitzed Wilton Speight in the end zone and tipped his desperation pass before driving the QB into the turf. The ball sailed to Hooker, who took it in for six.)

LGHL: Is there a player on this year’s defense that you see as your natural successor, someone with your leadership and gameplay skills?

McMillan: [Former outside linebacker] Chris Worley, definitely. He’s coming in this year and taking over my position. He’s going to put on a show for the Buckeye fans.

LGHL: Okay, one last question before we let you go: Who has the best name in this year’s draft?

McMillan: Well, I’d probably say Jake Butt, but I went undefeated against him. So I’m going to go with myself on that one.