There isn’t anyone quite like Jalen Mills on the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster.
Just about overlooked in the 2016 NFL Draft, the former Louisiana State University standout went from seventh-round draft pick and far from a guarantee to make the Birds’ Opening Day roster to a likely Opening Day starter in 2017, not to mention maybe the league’s most confident second-year player.
Best known for post-pass-deflection finger wagging and an attitude bigger than his 6-foot, 191-pound frame, Mills took a moment to go one-on-one with EaglesNotebook.com’s Cody Benjamin in advance of Eagles training camp.
Check out Mills talking everything from the Eagles’ limitless 2017 ceiling to the history behind his own swagger, or read up on what he had to say below.
On what went into a fast transition from seventh-round draft pick to starting NFL cornerback:
I think it all starts with, one, great coaching and, two, the great veteran players that I have around me in the secondary, with Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod … Those guys took me under their wing and basically are showing me the NFL game, because it’s totally different than college.
On when and why his signature finger-wagging celebration first came to life:
Man, I think I’ve been having that since, uh … I mean we always say high school football is king in Texas … so being in that atmosphere, playing in those big games and then going to LSU and playing in front of 102,000 and 103,000 week in and week out, you have to have confidence.
On whether or not he plans to permanently keep his dyed-green Eagles hairstyle:
I think for right now, I’m defintely stuck with that. Fans love it, I love it, my mom loves it … everybody’s in love with it right now, so I definitely think I’m sticking with it.
On whether the leadership of coach Doug Pederson and faith of quarterback Carson Wentz fueled the Eagles in 2016:
One hundred percent. One hundred percent. Him being a (player’s coach), knowing his role as being head coach but also understanding — him playing the game before, playing QB and knowing those hard practices, those hot days … Having a guy like Coach Pederson who understands the players and actually understands the game helps a lot, that rubs off on us as players … Carson’s always walking around, embraced that leadership (role) regardless of being a rookie … When that thing happened with Sam Bradford, he realized that he had to step up his game, and he embraced it. It showed the longer the season got.
On when he realized Carson Wentz was the “real deal” as the leader of the team:
I think it was the Monday night game vs. Green Bay, vs. Green Bay going head to head with Aaron Rodgers. Even though we finished second in the game, you could see Aaron Rodgers was making a couple plays here and there, but once Carson got on the field, Carson was … doing a lot more scrambling, extending plays and I think that game, his level of play increased to what it hadn’t been until that game.
On the attitude of the Eagles entering the 2017 season:
Everybody is hungry. Everybody’s focused on winning. It’s a team thing. It’s not an “I” guy. There’s no, “It’s about me.” Everybody knows that the role each player has, whether it’s Torrey (Smith) being a burner, whether it’s Alshon (Jeffery) being that big-body guy, that big threat, big target that Carson needs, whether it’s the matchup on the smaller guy or LeGarrette Blount coming in and being that big, physical running back we need, it’s highly competitive.
On the Eagles’ ceiling for 2017 and the difference in the team from a year ago:
Oh, I wouldn’t even put a cap on this team right now. Even for me, still being a young guy, the energy that this team has in OTAs (compared to) last year in OTAs is way different. It’s totally different. Me putting a ceiling on us right now, I couldn’t even do it. I think the sky’s the limit.
On how he wants to be perceived:
With the finger wagging and everything, sometimes people think I’m cocky, but it’s not at all. I’m really confident. You have to have that in the league. But for sure, I want that lock-down corner type of role. I want people to know me as that and when my team calls me to have that role in each and every game.