To Alec Milner, a right guard/right tackle from Fallston (Maryland) High School, nothing says "I can do it better" than pushing a defensive lineman backward five yards.
"You get a feeling of accomplishment," Milner says, about knocking opponents off the ball.
Milner should feel pretty accomplished nowadays. Ranked as the 113th best player in the state of Maryland, the 6-foot-2, 275-pound offensive lineman is being recruited by several prominent colleges and universities, including some Division-I programs.
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"I want to get an amazing education alongside football," Milner says. "I'm looking for a team that is successful, but it's not like the coaches and players are too different. They have a relationship; the players and coaches are close. They have a bond together."
Milner's football career began in seventh grade, when his middle school coach recognized his ability and began to put him through an individualized workout program. "He wanted to get me one-on-one so I could learn more advanced moves, like how to knock hands away," Milner says. "He wanted to give me a weight set so I could really start lifting."
His coach gave him a weight bench and a handful of weights that had been in storage for almost a decade. They were old and rusty, but they were Milner's first tools for getting serious about working out.
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From his eighth grade season on, Milner's off-season training included weightlifting, cardio workouts and agility drills. He used exercises like the L-Drill and the 5-10-5 to improve his conditioning and make himself more mobile, so he could execute pulling and trapping blocks and get upfield to pick off linebackers and defenders in the secondary.
"A lot of the movements in football are unpredictable, so you've got to get your body moving in a bunch of random ways and have it conditioned so you can take some awkward steps and still have control over yourself," Milner says.
Milner's work paid off in a major way. In high school, after a brief stint on the defensive line as a sophomore, he became a load on the O-line, overpowering opponents on run plays and locking down pass rushers on throwing plays. With Milner playing defense to learn the movements of the offensive linemen across from him, Fallston went 10-0 his sophomore year, the team's first undefeated regular season in school history.
Milner switched back to the O-line as a junior. Now a senior, he continues to be a team leader—someone who can play either side of the ball. His coach occasionally inserts him on the defensive line when someone needs a breather or suffers an injury.
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Milner credits his development to the work he started putting in back in middle school. He says, "I've completely transformed as a player. I'm more capable, I'm quicker and I'm a lot stronger now. I'm smarter in the game. I can handle things without even thinking. It's just muscle memory now."
Although Fallston went 5-5 last season, Milner continued to impress colleges. He is in talks with Yale, Harvard, Princeton and other top schools. He says the school he picks will place a premium on academics and have a head football coach who cultivates a strong relationship with his players. He'd love to continue to work on the offensive side of the trenches, but he says he's open to playing on either side. "Wherever they need me," Milner says.
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With that kind of attitude, you can bet Milner will be back on the field next fall, pushing people around on college gridirons.