Jozie Milton remains a mystery to many fans who follow Louisiana high school football and recruiting with a passion.
And it’s his passion that helps set the Silliman Institute lineman apart from so many other top recruits in the Class of 2015.
“The biggest thing Jozie had to learn when he came here is that you don’t get any plays off,” Silliman coach T.J. Davis said. “We’re not like the big schools where guys will only play offense or defense and then take 10 or 15 plays off. It didn’t take long. Jozie plays with so much intensity. He’s one of those guys with a motor that never stops.”
Because he plays for Clinton-based Silliman, a member of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools and not the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, the 6-foot-3, 290-pound Milton is not at the center of recruiting talk despite having 28 scholarship offers.
After being groomed as a defensive lineman, center is where Milton is projected to play after committing to South Carolina last month.
“My dad always coached me to be a defensive lineman,” Milton said. “I always felt like that is in my blood. I didn’t like playing offense much at first. Now it’s a challenge.
“(South Carolina coach Steve) Spurrier really sold me on that. He believes that will be my best chance to get to the next level. ... He’s coached a lot of players who made it in the NFL. Helping my team be successful is my goal this year, but I can’t wait to get to college and see what I can do.”
After the 2013 season, Davis and the Milton family — which includes father Mike, the Wildcats’ defensive line coach — were told that Milton was likely to receive 20 to 30 scholarship offers.
Davis didn’t know what to expect. Silliman has had players go on to the college ranks but has not had a player garner the attention Milton has.
If Davis were skeptical, it didn’t last long because the scholarship offers started flowing in. Milton, who attended Monday’s portion of LSU’s camp, does not have an offer from the Tigers.
South Carolina, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Georgia and Arkansas are the SEC schools that have offered scholarships. Other notable offers have came from Wake Forest, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, TCU, Iowa State, Arizona State, SMU and Oregon State.
Don’t make the mistake of casting Milton in the role of unknown phenom whose story just came to light. His 101 tackles, 28 tackles for loss, eight sacks, six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries as a junior were eye-openers.
“I saw a lot of potential in Jozie early, by the time he was 10,” Mike Milton said. “And by the time he got to middle school, he was dominating. That’s when we were living in Zachary.”
Milton won a starting position as a defensive lineman at Zachary as a freshman. At the time, he was about 5-foot-11 and weighed 340 pounds. Mike Milton, a former defensive lineman at Louisiana-Monroe, sought something different. The family moved back to the Ethel area, and he enrolled Jozie at his old school, Silliman.
Milton’s sophomore season was an adjustment. He learned to play both ways and quickly realized he needed to reshape his body.
“I knew I wasn’t in the best shape to do the things that needed to be done,” Milton said. “I started doing work on my own. I lift weights and did a lot of running.”
By the end of the his sophomore season, Milton was down to 320 pounds, but he wanted to drop more weight. So he put himself of a strict diet of chicken breast and sweet potatoes. Milton weighed 270 when he suited up for his junior season.
“Coach Davis works those boys hard,” Mike Milton said. “They do more than just lift weights and run a little. He stays on them to make sure they’re in shape.”
In turn, Davis lauds Milton’s work ethic and said he’s one of the most dedicated players he has coached.
“Jozie has reshaped his body,” Davis said. “When he was 270 to 290 before, he was soft, but now he’s solid muscle.”
Milton has his share of admirers on other sidelines, too. Former LSU and NFL center Todd McClure, an ex-Central High star, offered to help Milton hone his skills. Ex-Bowling Green coach Carmon Moore, who coached a number of Division I players during his stint at Hammond High, calls Milton a “complete package.”
“What stands out is how physical he is, whether he’s playing on offense or defense,” Moore said. “He was easily the strongest guy on the field. He’s blue collar. On top of that, he’s a likable young man.”
For those who ask “Why South Carolina?” Milton has an answer. His father was in the military and was stationed in North Carolina. He remembers trips to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, as a child and is pondering a college major in marine biology.
First things come first. That means a focus on the 2014 season for Milton. The fact that Milton has two stepbrothers on the team — fellow senior Jordan Talley (tight end/defensive end) and junior Mason D’Aquilla (linebacker) — makes the Silliman team a family affair.
“I love this team,” Milton said. “We’ve got each other’s back. I’d do anything for them.”
If the 2014 season goes as Milton expects, he’ll have the chance to do just that.