Mills draws attention of Illini coaching staff

Mills draws attention of Illini coaching staff

CHAMPAIGN — Monroe Mills easily stood out Friday night at Memorial Stadium. Literally in the most basic of senses given that, at 6-foot-7 and 291 pounds, he towered over most of the other offensive linemen at Illinois' Friday Night Lights camp.

But Mills' physical presence wasn't the only thing that drew attention his way on Zuppke Field. He showed good footwork and flexibility for his size and moved well in the various drills. Mills was among the handful of legitimate Division I prospects in attendance — at least among those participating in the camp. Trinity Catholic teammates Reggie Lovie (one of Illinois' two 2020 commits) and Jalen St. John (a 2020 priority for the Illini) made the trip to Champaign from St. Louis just to visit.

The Illinois coaching staff, though, certainly took notice of Mills on the field.

Mills had a long conversation with Illini offensive line coach Bob McClain after the conclusion of the camp and came away from it with a big smile on his face. The Class of 2020 three-star tackle would be heading home to Missouri with an Illinois offer.

"Awesome conversation," Mills said. "It feels amazing. They were really impressed with my flexibility. They say I'm really flexible for my size. They like the way I moved my feet because I have relatively quick feet for my size, too."

Mills got some pointers from the Illinois coaches on Friday night, too, including areas he can improve like his pass protection form and how he can better use his hips in run blocking. It was simply the continuation of the conversation with the Illini that started in earnest a week ago after the Lindenwood University Mega Camp in St. Charles, Mo. He picked up offers from Kansas, Central Michigan and Western Illinois that weekend.

"After the Lindenwood camp, things have been picking up a lot," Mills said. "I'm really glad I went to that. A lot of schools started talking to me since they saw me there. (Illinois has) been in pretty good contact.

"They wanted me up for a camp, and I said, 'OK, we can make that trip.' It was great. A little five-hour drive from home, so not too bad at all. We made it an easy day trip. It was a great camp. I got to run a little bit and jump a little bit."

Those previous conversations with the Illinois coaches in addition to how Friday's camp progressed had Mills thinking he might be in line for an Illini offer. That didn't lessen his enthusiasm, though, after McClain made it official.

"I felt like something was coming," Mills said. "(McClain) always made me get the extra reps, and he always wanted me to go 100 times. I felt like he wanted me to show him something, and I think I did it. I was a little bit expecting it, but it was a nice surprise."

Mills currently holds other offers from Arkansas State, Buffalo, Columbia, Dartmouth, Eastern Michigan, Harvard, Indiana State, Northern Illinois, Northern Iowa, Pennsylvania, Rutgers, Toledo and Tulane. Rutgers was his first high major offer in April following The Opening Regional in St. Louis.

Mills has some specific ideas in mind about what will be the deciding factors when he makes his college decision. That's both on and off the field.

"I definitely want it to feel like a family," he said. "I want to be close with everybody. I want it to feel like the right fit. Business is really important to me because I want to be an entrepreneur when I get out of college. I'm looking for a really good business school, and Illinois has a great business school. That really fits well with what I'm looking for."

-