Catching Up With No. 7 is a weekly Q&A series normally with LSU running back Leonard Fournette. He didn’t show at interviews Monday night so here’s “Catching Up With No. 28, Jalen Mills.”
Jalen Mills spent the last two months overcoming a fractured ankle – the first injury he’s suffered in four years at LSU that forced him to miss games.
The Tigers senior defensive back spent hours in the LSU football building. When two rehabilitation sessions weren’t enough, he did three. If three didn’t do it, he did four.
“Toughest part was the injury itself,” Mill said Monday, his first day talking to reporters since suffering the injury in preseason camp on Aug. 19. “I’ve never been injured where I have to miss games during the season. That was my whole focus, that I was missing games during the season.”
It drove the veteran from Texas to return on schedule – the game against South Carolina. He dressed out for that game before returning to play last week. Mills played about a dozen snaps in the Tigers’ 35-28 win over Florida on Saturday, serving as the nickelback in the team’s five-defensive back set.
“Felt great,” a smiling Mill said.
It was just a great feeling. My family was happy, teammates were happy for me.
When did you feel 100 percent?
About two weeks ago.
How was rehab and how’d you keep spirits up?
What did you learn about this team while watching from the sideline?
Same thing I knew during camp, summer time. A bunch of hungry guys that want that national championship at the end of the year.
Do you feel more eager than usual to make interceptions since you missed the first half of the season?
That’s when the big plays happen that you don’t want to happen. I just go out there and play my football, just playing the way I can, playing for my teammates. Not trying to make the extra tackle or extra interception, strip the ball.
Was there a time during rehabilitation where it was really hard and you wondered when you’d get back?
Of course. You go through the injury and you know the time table that’s set and once that time’s hit, you’re like, ‘Man, the season’s going on and guys are playing great.’ You just want to be out there with your brothers. You want to be out there with your team. Like I said, me and my family, my teammates, the coaches, they kept me in high spirits.
What was it like leading from the sideline?
It was a little different, but at the same time, kind of the same. Just me seeing the plays that are happening and coaching them on the sideline. I can get on the board, get on the headset. I’m hearing everything, going through the progression with the guys.
I feel like it was kind of more easier … if something were to happen, guys could talk to me instead of talking to the coaches. Coaches get a little more emotional and maybe a coach could tell me something to tell the guys. They could listen to me and kind of accept it.
When you first had the injury and looked at the schedule, which game did you think you’d make it back? South Carolina?
I was hoping, shooting for South Carolina.
You could have played against South Carolina, but coaches held you out. How bad did you want to get in?
Not at all. It was just me missing another game. I was still helping guys on the sideline. We still got a win.
What was it like just to dress out for that game?
I was happy, like a kid in a candy store. I was out there running around. They were telling me to calm down.