Packers rookie Jerron McMillian embraces hard-work life : Packers Insider

Packers rookie Jerron McMillian embraces hard-work life

August 21, 2012 by  
Filed under News

By Tyler Dunne, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

~Green Bay – There were no mysterious envelopes or middle men. The University of Maine wasn’t like, um, some other schools.

“You’re not at a big school where they’ll give you checks or whatever they give you,” safety Jerron McMillian said. “You have to work for that, man. I needed a little cash for when I do stay up there.”

Unlike many hot-shot college football stars, Packers rookie safety had jobs while attending the University of Maine. "I don’t want anything to be handed to me,” he said. "I like to work."

So for three summers, McMillian worked at an Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Before that, he tossed luggage around at the Newark Liberty International Airport. McMillian’s days were long, humbling. He drove cars and cleaned cars. Hardly a summer of fun.

Maine was his only Division I scholarship offer. When he was invited to the NFL scouting combine, McMillian was stunned. But now the 5-foot-11, 203-pound fourth-round pick is gunning for a starting safety spot in Green Bay’s nickel defense. To earn the job – and beat out M.D. Jennings – McMillian is trying to remember those days at Enterprise and the airport.

The Green Bay Packers safety always has preferred a life without handouts.

“I don’t want anything to be handed to me,” he said. “I like to work, I like to work. I don’t mind it at all. You have to work in order to get things you want.”

The breakthrough came during Thursday’s 35-10 blowout loss to the Cleveland Browns. In a span of five plays, McMillian stoned Brandon Jackson for a 2-yard loss and a 1-yard gain. Deep in the secondary, his coverage skills were improved. As a reward, McMillian saw snaps with the first-team defense at safety next to Morgan Burnett in nickel Sunday.

All good, McMillian said. Of course he wants to start. But he doesn’t want to change his approach.

The Enterprise gig began from the Maine coaches’ recommendation. If players were staying on campus, they advised finding a summer job. So at Enterprise, McMillian was a utility man. In addition to those pickups and drop-offs for the “We pick you up” company, McMillian washed cars, cleaned out the inside and traveled to pick up new vehicles.

There were some memorable rides. McMillian said he met his share of strange people.

The 9-to-5 job netted him about $8 an hour. McMillian – who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds and had a vertical leap of 39 inches at his pro day – squeezed in workouts before and after his job. Typically, McMillian trained at 6 a.m.

Devoid of any mega-conference coddling, McMillian worked because he had no choice.

“I got a little cash in my pocket to help me pay rent,” he said. “Pay rent and eat.”

McMillian kept in touch with his family on the phone, embracing this completely new lifestyle. Maine is Maine. But at his locker Sunday, McMillian defended the area. It’s scenic, he explained, and a lot like Green Bay. He never felt the urge to spend a summer at home.

Staying up north through college – instead of heading back to Hillside, N.J. – kept him grounded.

“It did, just knowing I had a job,” McMillian said. “I had something else to occupy my time. After it was over, I still went back to the field after I was done. You’re kind of tired but you’re like, ‘I’ll sleep later.’ ”

His first ego-swallowing job was at the Newark airport. The summer before his freshman year at Maine, McMillian loaded and unloaded luggage and drove the Tug airplane tow. Wide-eyed, McMillian said he couldn’t believe how some families packed their bags to capacity.

Most important, McMillian learned how to work for a boss at 17 years old.

“You have to be strong mentally,” he said. “People will try to break you, but it’s for a good cause. They’re not doing it to put you down. It’s nothing like that. People like to see you do better. They’re on you.”

Packers teammate and fellow safety Morgan Burnett never had such jobs. The sight of McMillian hurling oversize bags onto a metal crate makes him laugh, but he does see the effect this all had on the rookie.

“It teaches you about being professional, being on time, being accountable, working hard,” Burnett said. “So it really prepares you and gets you ready for a career professionally out of college. Whether it’s football or whatever you do, it’s about showing up on time, carrying yourself properly and handling your business.”

Now it appears McMillian has an opportunity to start. After practice Sunday, coach Mike McCarthy said the Browns game was McMillian’s “best day as a Packer” and that the “reps will continue to come.”

A violent, fearless hitter, McMillian must prove he can cover receivers in space. At Maine, where he had 92 tackles (11½ for loss) and 3½ sacks as a senior, he often played near the line of scrimmage. In Green Bay, the safeties must be interchangeable. He’ll need to shadow the ever-evolving NFL tight end.

Yet when McMillian has a chance to label someone, he’ll take it. Through all those hours of work at the airport and Enterprise, football became McMillian’s release. His most memorable hit?

“I was a junior. Dude ran a slant,” he said. “I came ……… Full story here

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