NFL teams in need of cornerback help this offseason will want to take a long look at East Carolina star Ja'Quan McMillian.
Over the course of his career at East Carolina, McMillian had 127 total tackles, 28 pass breakups and 12 interceptions. He took his game to another level this past fall, grading as the No. 1 FBS cornerback in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus.
Despite being one of the most reliable cornerbacks in the nation, McMillian was not invited to the NFL Combine. Though it's unfortunate, he plans on using that snub as motivation.
We caught up with Ja'Quan McMillian to discuss his career at East Carolina, playing with a chip on his shoulder and much more.
The Spun: How has this draft process been treating you?
Ja’Quan McMillian: Initially, I didn’t know I was going to come out. I was in Houston with my uncle when I made the decision. It was kinda last second. The process has been treating me well. I’m glad I made the decision to come out. I think it was time for me. I’m surrounded by the right people and I’m growing.
The Spun: What made it the right time to go pro?
JM: I felt like I’ve done everything I had to do at East Carolina. I didn’t feel like I can make my stock get any higher by going back to school. I also didn’t want to risk an injury. Plus, I was coming off a hot season - I was an AP All-American. I felt like it was the right time to go.
The Spun: Your coverage grade this past season ranked No. 1 nationally among FBS cornerbacks. What do you think when you see stats like that?
JM: Of course, I’m proud of it, but I feel like there’s a lot of work to be done. I still feel like I’m overlooked. I still have that chip on my shoulder.
The Spun: Do you prefer to have that chip on your shoulder?
JM: Man, I definitely love having that chip on my shoulder. Since high school, people have said I’m too short or I’m not fast enough. I always play with that chip so it can give me an extra boost. Even in the offseason, I’m still competing with that chip on my shoulder.
The Spun: You had an incredible career at East Carolina. Do you have a favorite moment from your time there?
JM: My favorite moment was the game against Memphis. We won and it came down to the final seconds. We were bowl-eligible after we won that game. It was the first time we had a winning season in a long time. Just seeing the seniors have a chance to go to a bowl game was everything to me.
The Spun: How much did having Steve Ellis as your cornerbacks coach help?
JM: Coach Ellis is my guy. He definitely instilled confidence in every player in the room. As soon as he stepped on campus, he found a way to make us play with an edge. He also makes it fun for us at the same time. There’s never a boring day on the field or in the meeting rooms with him. We fed off his energy for every practice and game. It was a great experience learning from him.
The Spun: What are you hoping to show at your pro day?
JM: Just my ball skills, which the stats show that I’m good there. The 40-yard dash is going to be important too. Scouts are going to pay attention to my hip movements and the field drills.
The Spun: Are there certain players you like to watch on film?
JM: I like to watch Tyrann Mathieu and Denzel Ward. They’re guys that have the same body type as me. I watch what they do on the field.
The Spun: Was there a matchup that you remember being really fun?
JM: Going up against Cincinnati was always fun. Alec Pierce definitely made some plays on me. I also made some plays against him, but they got the win at the end of the day.
The Spun: Do you somewhat feel like people are overlooking you?
JM: My family for sure. I want to put them in a better situation and provide for them. But I also just love the game. I wasn’t forced in this sport. It’s something I love and want to keep on doing for a very long time.
The Spun: What is an NFL team getting in Ja’Quan McMillian?
JM: Somebody that’s smart, plays fast, is coachable and has great ball skills. I can also come up and tackle, play inside or outside, and play special teams.
McMillian has received plenty of criticism about his height, but that didn't stop him from shining at the collegiate level.
If McMillian lands in the right system at the NFL level, he could make an impact as early as this year. He has the skill and mentality to be a difference-maker in the secondary.
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