CLINTON — J.J. McCleskey knows a thing or two about football talent.
McCleskey was in Clinton Friday to officially present Silliman Institute lineman Jozie Milton his game jersey for the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl, which will be played Dec. 14 in AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
McCleskey was a walk-on at the University of Tennessee as a hard-hitting defensive back and later played eight years in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints and the Arizona Cardinals.
He’s been around football his whole life and will serve as one of the assistant coaches for the all-star game that will be played in the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
“Look at him,” said McCleskey, surveying the 6-3, 290-pound Milton, who plays offensive and defensive lineman for the Wildcats.
“He runs a 4.8 (seconds) in the 40-yard dash, and he’s explosive off the line of scrimmage. (Coach) Steve Spurrier wouldn’t take a kid unless he has the potential to be a great player.”
Milton has verbally committed to play for Spurrier at South Carolina.
Milton first drew attention at an all-star combine last summer in Dallas, which he attended with his teammate and brother Jordan Talley.
The Blue-Grey contest will serve to showcase Milton and all-star high school seniors from across the country. McCleskey’s son, J.J. McCleskey Jr., also will play in the game.
“It’s a first-class all-star game, and it’s an opportunity for these young men to showcase their skills,” said McCleskey, who lives in Covington.
“The staff is made up of experienced coaches from the NFL and college ranks who want to help the kids develop. They are all top prospects, and it’s by invitation only.”
For Milton, the Blue-Grey game will be a great way to end his high school career, and he plans to represent Silliman proudly.
“I can’t wait,” he said.
“I want to learn as much as I can while I’m there, and I know some great coaches are going to be there. A lot of people won’t believe this, but playing here is as hard as anywhere. I know I have to work harder than other (Class) 5A players to get my name out there.”