BELTON — Things haven’t always gone as planned for Jordan Millar during his college football career, though that’s tough to discern based on the Mary Hardin-Baylor senior’s easy-going personality.
Take for instance last season, when he was penciled in as a starting defensive end entering fall camp, injured his hamstring early in drills and never got a chance to compete for the job as the injury hampered him throughout the year.
He appeared in only five games.
“I didn’t think it was that bad of an injury at first,” he said. “I gave it about two weeks, and then I came back. When I did, the injury showed up again. I gave it another four weeks, and then it happened again. It was a prolonged injury.
“I never wanted to quit, though, because I knew I had another year here. The reason I came here was to play football, so I wasn’t going to quit.”
Last year’s injury was only the latest curve in the career path of the 6-foot, 225-pound Millar.
He came to UMHB as an all-state player from Milano, where he also shined in baseball, basketball and track and field. He toiled on the junior varsity squad during his first season with the Crusaders, and then spent all of his sophomore year on the varsity as a fullback.
He appeared in all 13 games of his sophomore campaign — even returning a kickoff 69 yards for a touchdown — and seemed to have found his niche at the college level. Then the coaching staff decided in the offseason before his junior year to make him a defensive end, and he went back to work to learn another position.
“It was kind of a surprise and I knew it would be a challenge, but I loved going over to the defense,” he said. “I like taking on blocks, getting off blocks and going to make a tackle. I like to make plays.”
Finally healthy again, Millar has hit the ground running in his final season. In UMHB’s season-opening win over Sul Ross State last week, he had a sack among his 1½ tackles for losses and broke up a pass.
His days as a fullback and last season’s injury are distant memories.
“If I wouldn’t have known better, I would have thought he played defensive end his whole career,” UMHB defensive line coach Mark Carey said of Millar. “He’s a quick learner. It doesn’t take much for him to be able to take things from the meeting room and execute them on the grass. He understands concepts and techniques.
“What’s been impressive with him and what he’s done is he’s been able to execute at a high level consistently. That was the focus going into fall camp, being able to be a down-in, down-out defensive end. And that’s what we’ve seen of him.”
Learning new concepts and grasping them in a hurry is nothing new for Millar. As an engineering major, his class load isn’t exactly a breeze and requires him to digest large amounts of information quickly.
“It’s a lot of homework. You have to find extra time to put in the work to get your schoolwork done,” he said. “When you get to college, you have to learn time management. In high school, you have your parents to get onto you. In college, you’re all on your own to get it done.”
Millar’s next chance to get something done comes this afternoon, when No. 1 UMHB (1-0) clashes with No. 6 Linfield (1-0) in McMinnville, Ore., where the Crusaders have never won in two tries and the Wildcats will seek retribution for last season’s pair of losses at the hands of UMHB.
“We expect them to play hard,” Millar said. “I know they’re pretty mad about last season, and they’re going to try to knock us off.”
After traversing a winding road through the first three years of his college career, the Milam County native looks forward to today’s challenge.
“It’s an honor to start because last year was hard to handle. I’m thankful to be able to play this year without injury,” he said. “I’m going to give it my all on every rep. I’m taking any rep or any play for granted.”
NOTES: After UMHB won last year’s regular-season meeting and another matchup in the playoffs, Linfield still leads the all-time series 4-2. . . . The Crusaders are 3-3 all-time in games played in the state of Oregon. They lost two playoff games at Linfield and a regular-season contest at Southern Oregon. Their three wins in the Beaver State came at the expense of Willamette (twice) and Southern Oregon (once).
TODAY: No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor at No. 7 Linfield, 3:30 p.m. (FM 101.7)