Mainland running back D’Andre McMillian received his first college offer on Aug. 19 — nine days after the death of his father, Christopher McMillian.
D'Andre McMillian was never close to his father. Christopher McMillian was never in his son’s life. But after being released from jail in early June, Christopher vowed to make a change. He wanted to spend more time with his son.
They hung out together at every opportunity throughout the summer.
They talked about D’Andre’s future, his goals, his dreams. D’Andre, 17, was entering his senior season with Mainland High School’s football team.
Christopher had never seen D’Andre play before.
He told his son that he was going to be in the stands this year for every game.
“It was my dream. Everything I’ve worked for is paying off. But I’m going to keep working. It’s not going to give me a big head. I’m going to keep working and play like I still don’t have [an offer].”
He never got the chance.
After having a heart attack, Christopher died on Aug. 10, seven days before the Buccaneers played their first preseason game.
“He was just starting to get closer to me, and then he left me like that again,” D’Andre said. “It hurt me.”
But in his lowest moment, D’Andre achieved a dream he’s had ever since he first strapped on a helmet at the age of 5. On Aug. 19, he received an offer to play football for Prairie View A&M University, a Division I program in Texas. It was his first college offer.
His mother cried at the news. His grandfather, overcome with joy, texted him the entire day. Congratulatory messages and tweets from his teammates poured in. D’Andre himself was near tears.
“Everybody showed love because they all knew I deserved it,” he said. “It was my dream. Everything I’ve worked for is paying off. But I’m going to keep working. It’s not going to give me a big head. I’m going to keep working and play like I still don’t have [an offer].”
The road to his first offer was a hard, stressful one.
When most people, especially college recruiters, look at D’Andre, they don’t see his 4.4 speed, his nimble feet or his steady hands.
They see his height.
But after four years of high school football — all with the Buccaneers — the 5-foot-8, 162-pound running back is used to the judgement.
When he’s on the field, the snickers quickly turn to stunned expressions.
In four games this season, D’Andre has scored 10 touchdowns and has three games scoring three TDs.
“I play with a lot of heart,” he said. “I’m little, but I’m strong.”
With renewed confidence and assurance at the fact that he’ll most likely be playing college football next fall, D’Andre is ready for everything else life has to throw at him. He has plenty of motivation to succeed: his mother, his younger brothers and sisters, his teammates and his coaches.
And despite the pain of loss, D’Andre can picture how his father would react to his recent success.
“I just know he’d be smiling at me,” he said.