By: Mark Snyder, Detroit Free Press | May 9, 2017
Michigan’s newest quarterback commitment, Orlando (Fla.) Olympia’s Joe Milton, doesn’t want to be know entirely for his arm.
As his profile raised in the past few months, his skill set became more widely known.
So when you’ve got that type of arm, it’s worth embracing.
“(Throwing) 70 yards is real easy to me,” Milton told the Free Press this week. “I’m not trying to get a big head or nothing. But I can do it anytime, anywhere. It’s like God blessed me or something and I can take advantage of it.”
At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, it’s no surprise that he can sling it.
But Milton defines himself differently.
“Me as a quarterback, I’m a person that’s going to be a leader and make everyone around me better,” he said. “I don’t want people to just know me as my arm. Because you don’t know what can happen, God forbid.”
Though he doesn’t have big rushing numbers, there’s enough athleticism that, even at that size, he can take off when there’s pressure. Early in his career, he did that too often, trying to escape the rush.
Now? “I can run if it have to,” he said. “But I’m a pocket passer.”
U-M passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton saw that in January when he began flipping through recruits’ film.
Over the few months since, Hamilton and Milton have strongly bonded despite having no prior knowledge of the other with Hamilton coming from the NFL.
“I wasn’t surprised because I really didn’t know anything about him and I really didn’t know his background,” Milton said. “But as I got to know him, I felt closer and with me being so close, it felt like he can put me in the right situation and be the best player I can be.”
The more football they discussed, the greater Milton’s comfort.
“He really knows what he’s talking about, he knows what plays to run in all type of situations,” Milton said. “He’s been in the game, he knows what the game is like. My relationship with him is a coach that really knows what I can be in life, no matter the situation.”
Milton’s largest pre-commitment obstacles centered around the unknown.
How far away was it, considering his other finalists included Florida and Georgia? How did he connect with the other players? What was the environment like in Michigan Stadium?
Each box checked easily.
He discovered there are many easy and inexpensive flight options from Orlando to Detroit for his mother.
Michigan’s young talented players – receivers Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones, tailback Chris Evans and linebacker Devin Bush Jr. – connected with him, but never pressured Milton for a decision.
And the Big House, which he saw on his visit for the spring game weekend April 15, put everything into a real form.
“I was walking on the field and people already knew who I was,” he said. “The alumni there is fantastic, there’s no way you can be left behind. The academic standpoint is great, I just feel like I can see myself playing in that stadium, doing the right things and getting my education.”
Outsiders’ expected area of concern – stacked competition under center with Wilton Speight, Brandon Peters and Dylan McCaffrey – didn’t bother Milton a bit. Knowing Jim Harbaugh, that probably appealed to him as much as any physical tool.
“I have guys that can make me better and I can make them better in different ways,” Milton said. “With them being there (my) freshman year, I think it will be better fit. Because we ought to know what we can do. We already talked about it and things like that.
“For me competition is going to be competition, anywhere you go. No matter where you go, there’s going to be competition. Like me, I’m not going to back down from competition. That’s the person I am.”
With the commitment sealed, Milton shifts his focus.
He’ll take another Ann Arbor visit with his mother, who didn’t make the first trip, hoping she appreciates what appealed to him.
He’ll become Michigan’s recruiter for the 2018 class, planning to start with his own Olympia roster.
Already imposing physically with players afraid to tackle him, Milton hopes to continue adding weight to 240 pounds: “I don’t want to get 240 fat. I want to get 240 straight muscle.”
And there’s the Elite 11 quarterback showcase, where he will compete in Los Angeles in June, trying to earn an invitation to the finals.
Though ranked as the No. 10 pro-style passer nationally, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate he’s on the level as the higher-ranked, higher-profile quarterbacks.
Some players downplay it but, as he said, Milton enjoys the competition.
“It’s important to me,” he said. “This is once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I’m going to do it, I’m going to try my best to win and I’m going to do everything in my power to win. It’s what I want to be.”