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A Salute to the 2020 Alabama Seniors: Josh McMillon

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How many can really say they pulled off an engineering degree while being a scholarship athlete on the best team in college football?

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A former four-star recruit out of Memphis, Joshua McMillon was a mostly unheralded addition to Alabama’s 2015 signing class. At 240 pounds, he was a prototypical middle linebacker that would have been a surefire starter five years earlier, but his style was going out of style with the hurry-up spread offenses sweeping the nation.

Despite that, he was the #241 ranked player in the nation and a participant in the UnderArmour All-American game in 2015 before he moved on to play for Alabama.

Why a Tennessee native picked Alabama, though? Well, the College of Engineering was involved.

The dean remembers that 20-minute conversation when the young student asked about juggling aerospace engineering with playing for Nick Saban. He originally wanted to be an astronaut but a 6-foot-3, 241-pound frame doesn’t exactly fit in a Falcon 9. So, he went with mechanical engineering.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Josh McMillon because he probably had a thousand opportunities to move out of engineering into some other program,” Karr said. “But he was just adamant he was here to get an engineering degree and he has stuck with it and has been tenacious about it. And you just have to have a lot of respect for people who do that.”

While players like D’Shawn Hand and a couple of others have tried to balance the engineering program with playing football, McMillon is the only scholarshipped player to graduate with an engineering degree in Nick Saban’s tenure.

As a personal aside, a good friend of mine my senior year was a tutor for many of the athletes in basic science classes, and they always brought up and commended Joshua for his great attitude and willingness to work at learning.

After taking a redshirt season and then not playing at all in his second season, McMillon started to get some time on special teams by his redshirt sophomore year, and started regularly appearing in mop-up duty over the next couple of seasons. As a junior, he even got to play in some actual non-garbage time snaps in the defensive slugfest and shutout of LSU.

With Mack Wilson moving on to the NFL, McMillon was expected to finally win the starting job at inside linebacker as a 5th year senior in 2019beside the uber-athletic Dylan Moses, using his experience, smarts, and hard-tackling in tandem with Moses’s speed to form a nice duo inside.

Unfortunately, both he and Moses messed up their knees in training camp just before the season started, leading to a couple of true freshmen being forced into the role at the last second to start the whole season.

McMillon worked hard to rehab and was granted a 6th year on a medical redshirt as he worked on a graduate degree, and returned in 2020. Though now buried on the depth chart behind Moses and the emerging Christian Harris, McMillon was considered one of the leaders on the team and a major locker room presence for the Tide.

After not being able to get on the field on defense, McMillon shifted strategies, worked on his blocking, and became the starting fullback on goalline situations, making the key block on a 39-yard Najee Harris touchdown against Ole Miss in a critical 3rd down moment.

He got to work in some key touchdown blocks in every big game Alabama played in the magical 2020 season, including this huge one against Ohio State:

It was clearly a huge moment for McMillon as he closed out his Alabama career with a dominant block in a dominant game for the best team in the nation.

McMillon will now be looking to catch on with an NFL team as a potential 7th rounder or undrafted free agent, emphasizing his versatility, special teams prowess, attitude, leadership, and smarts.

And, hey, an engineering degree is a nice back-up plan to have.

For all 6 years of uncountable background support for the Crimson Tide and 3 different national titles:

Roll Tide, Joshua McMillon.