It's been a good week for Raekwon McMillan, who started things off by ending his brief stay on the PUP list with an activation and then turned in some productive training camp sessions heavily involved in the defense. Early on, it appears McMillan will play a significant role as the Patriots defense turns things over from Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.
During the spring Jerod Mayo expressed his excitement about having a new, young group to the Pats from the Past podcast, a group that includes McMillan, Mack Wilson and Cameron McGrone.
"We have some guys that Pats Nation hasn't even heard of probably," said Mayo. "That, to me, is the exciting part. That's the exciting part of the unknown. We're going to go into it as a unit, we're going to go into it together and I would say even right now not having some of those older guys in the room is beneficial for the younger guys because the older guys would be bored out of their minds with some of the things we're talking about. At the same time, it's forcing the young guys to really take that step forward and really grow and develop without being hindered by any other guy's experience."
McMillan impressed the coaches during the early days of camp last season before he was injured. Now, healthy and happy to be standing with his "cleats back on the grass," the linebacker will be helping replace one of his early football idols, Hightower.
"When I first walked into the locker room and saw Hightower's name on the locker room... it's crazy because back in high school, before my high school games I used to type in 'Dont'a Hightower highlights' and sit and watch his highlights before games," recalled McMillan, adding he especially emulated Hightower's signature sack celebration. "He was kind of one of my inspirations growing up... always looked up to his game. Thought he was one of the best in the league and a potential Hall of Famer."
After a year behind the scenes learning from Hightower and other vets, it's now McMillan's time to shine as a Patriot.
"I'll say I still haven't put on a game jersey for the Patriots, but looking forward to it this year and going out there and making some plays is going to be amazing,"