Dee Milliner received his first experience with New York Jets fans during his three weeks at SUNY Cortland training camp. Our top draft choice even has had a little exposure to his new home, MetLife Stadium.
"I passed by the stadium a couple of times when I was up here in New York for the draft," said the former Alabama cornerback. Did he actually get a tour of the building? "No, I've never been inside," he said. "But I rode by it when I was enjoying the scenery."
Milliner said it will be "a great feeling" to get exposure to his new fans and his new home scenery from the inside on Saturday night when the Jets host the Jacksonville Jaguars in their preseason home opener. It's a night that he genuinely seems to be looking forward to.
"You've always got to be excited to see the fans," he said, "engage with them, give some high-fives, some hugs, see a smile on their face. They're out there for you, happy to see you succeed. They're out there to support you so you always have to be excited about that."
At first I thought Milliner might be a little standoffish toward his new followers, but I think now that right after he was drafted he was still getting his Big Apple bearings. He may have received three years of NFL prep, glitter and counseling from Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide national championship program, but before that he was small-town Alabama born and bred.
So maybe he's not as bubbly as his fellow first-rounder, DT Sheldon Richardson (profiled Thursday in advance of his first game at MetLife against the Jags), but Dee Milliner's personable enough and ready to rock from the get-go as a starting corner in the base defense. And that is a product of his ability to perform at a high level no matter what the environment.
"I'm cool in any situation. I'm a laid-back, relaxed type of guy," he told me earlier this week back in Cortland. "You've got to learn how to adapt real quickly. So I just lay back, I play football. That's my job."
Milliner showed some of what he'll bring to the table in green and white with his breakup of Matt Stafford's end zone ball for WR Patrick Edwards in the first quarter of the Detroit game last Friday.
"You've got to pride yourself on making plays. It was a good play right there," he said. "The D-line gave me a rush like they did, and my safety was in the spot, if [Edwards] would've run an inside route he could've helped me. So I just played where I was supposed to be at."
As you can see, Milliner spreads the praise around to his teammates, and he also doesn't shy away from his minus plays. He talked about certain times he got beat on by the Lions. And when I told him in the Ford Field visitors' locker room that I thought for sure WR Matt Willis came down out of bounds on the replay challenge that was reversed into a 27-yard completion, he didn't hesitate.
"Nah, he was inbounds," Dee said. "He got his elbow down."
We're getting the sense that as time goes on, not many opponents' receivers will be keeping key parts of their body inbounds with the ball in their possession against Milliner.
"He's been very impressive," said Antonio Cromartie, the corner opposite Dee and one of the key spokesmen for our defense this year. "We know what he can do on the field. We just want to make sure that when he goes on the field, he doesn't have to think about anything, he just can go out there and play football."
Milliner feels that way about his fellow Class of '13 draft picks, who all will be getting their first experiences in front of the new home fans Saturday night.
"We know when we're out there, they drafted us, so we want to go out there and be able to produce right away," he said. "And it's going to be a great feeling to get in front of our fans and our support and try to get us a win in this preseason."
|JETS-JAGUARS PRESEASON STATS||NYJ||JAX|
|First Downs Gained||19||19|
|First Downs Allowed||16||17|