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Panthers well-represented on national stage

McMillan’s prep career ends in style

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POSTED: January 6, 2014 10:30 a.m.
John Wood/

Liberty County head football coach Kirk Warner and Panthers linebacker Raekwon McMillan were part of Team Nitro for the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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Liberty County High School linebacker Raekwon McMillan officially wrapped up his high-school football career Thursday by playing for Team Nitro in the Under Armour All-America Game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The game, which was broadcast on ESPN, completed a whirlwind winter for McMillan.
Last month alone, his announcement of planning to attend Ohio State was broadcast nationally, he won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top high-school linebacker. He also received accolades such as being named the In The Game Magazine Okefonokee Technical College Defensive Player of the Year, the Hinesville Ford Liberty County team MVP and the Class AAAA Defensive Player of the Year.
McMillan said the highlight of the week was playing against great competition, as both rosters were loaded with fellow top prospects. He added that the players get treated “like kings during the week.”
To add to the experience for the players, former NFL head coaches were assigned to the teams. Team Nitro was headed up by former Kansas City and New York Jets head coach Herm Edwards, while Team Highlight was coached by former San Francisco and Detroit head coach Steve Mariucci.
McMillan was one of the most coveted inside-linebacker prospects in the country. However, when he first saw the position lists for the Under Armour game, he didn’t find his name at that spot. Instead, he was slated to play outside linebacker.
“As the No. 1 middle linebacker, I came in to the meeting room and my name was under the OLB slot on the first day. My decision to go along with it dictated how my whole week went,” McMillan said.
Despite Nitro’s 31-21 loss, McMillan finished with five tackles — four solo and one assist — including a tackle for a three-yard loss. Hordes of national college-football media noticed McMillan’s attitude towards the change and it was noted in blogs, tweets and stories. It also was a topic of discussion among coaches and teammates.
“Raekwon’s decision to embrace where he would play as an outside linebacker for us where we really needed him set the tone for practices that everyone needed to understand the attitude they need to have towards the team concept,” Edwards said.
“Team Nitro had great players upfront and on the back end, leaving us linebackers with the job of just flowing and making plays,” McMillan said. “It was very fast. Coach Herm told me that he was proud of me for playing out of position and that my attitude will enable me to have a long career.”
In a game like the Under Armor All America Game, talent abounds on both sides, but outside of the sheer speed of the game, a player needs more than talent.
“Attitude, no matter how good you are, you have to have a great attitude because things aren’t always going to go your way,” McMillan said.
McMillan’s high-school head coach, Kirk Warner, also was on Nitro’s staff, coaching tight ends.
“He was coaching on the offensive side of the ball, so I was mostly going against him in practice,  but it was great to have familiar faces on the sideline,” McMillan said.
“It was an experience that I will never forget. Helped me get a feel for how fast the game will be in the future,” McMillan added.
McMillan wasn’t the only coastal Georgia player. Camden County’s Kalavarez Bessent played corner back for Team Highlight. Bessent, originally an Alabama commit, changed to Auburn in early December.

 

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