Orlando, Fla. – While Michigan quarterback Joe Milton has been waiting for his opportunity, he has been working to improve himself and his game. He has taken leadership classes at UM, learned to scale back his high-velocity throws, develop more touch, and he has embraced patience.
Milton, the 6-foot-6, 245-pound uber-talented quarterback who attended nearby Olympia High and expects 40 family members to attend Michigan’s Citrus Bowl game against Alabama on Wednesday, has been waiting his turn while Shea Patterson has directed the offense the last two seasons.
Dylan McCaffrey has been the backup to Patterson, but Milton is right there, and Cade McNamara is also part of the quarterback room and all are expected to compete for the starting job now that Patterson is moving on.
It is never easy to be patient when you want to be playing, but Milton, who saw limited action in four games this season, said it’s part of the process.
“It’s a very difficult challenge just watching others play. That’s not what I’m used to,” Milton said Monday before a bowl outing for both teams at Fun Spot America Theme Park. “But at the end of the day, man, you do what you gotta do. I learned a lot from Shea and I’m still learning from him. I’ll take his game and my game and put it together and that’s awesome.”
Milton said he has relied on his faith and remained humble.
While quarterbacks seem quick to transfer these days, he said that isn’t a path he has considered.
“No. Go Blue, man,” Milton said. “Nothing's been in my mind to go somewhere else. Just being patient and humble. It’s going to come one day.”
The competition will formally begin during spring practice, but the truth is, it has already started, even while Patterson has been making final preparations for the Citrus Bowl.
“At the beginning of the bowl practice (the coaches) said it don’t start in the spring, it starts now,” Milton said.
But the process has been ongoing for Milton, who seems to be a big-picture planner. When asked Monday why he chose Michigan, he gave an unexpected answer coming from a Floridian.
“The snow,” Milton said. “I wanted to get used to it now instead of going to the NFL and having to wait to adjust to it. I’d rather get used to it now than later.”
Instead of waiting until later, Milton has taken two leadership classes at Michigan, in the summer and this past semester. And he has studied how others he’s around lead.
What the classes have helped him develop is his voice and the ability to confidently share his opinions and insights.
“When I was younger, I was never outspoken,” he said. “When I wanted to say something, I never spoke. Now that I am who I am, taking the leadership classes being in the role I am now, I speak when I want to speak. And I speak when it’s the right time to speak.”
He shared an example how the classes have helped him on the football field.
“Sometimes at practice when guys are running their mouth or doing this or that, heads down, I just say, ‘Pick your head up, do your thing, don’t worry about nothing. When coaches say something it’s not bad, (they’re) just trying to help you,’” Milton said. “I tell my teammates, ‘Come on man, you’re good, don’t worry about it. Keep doing you.’”
Linebacker Cam McGrone praised Milton’s athleticism and said he has become more of a vocal leader when needed.
“Just seeing him around talking to receivers, the O-linemen during games, coming over to the defense, making sure we’re calmed down, making sure we’re level-headed," McGrone said. "It goes a long way.”
Milton’s arm strength has always turned heads because of the blistering velocity of his throws. He told reporters during the team’s trip to Paris in April 2018 that the farthest he’s thrown was 85 yards.
“Regular basis, 75 or 80,” he said at the time.
He has learned during his time at Michigan that throwing heat every pass isn’t always productive. He has worked on developing touch and flicking his wrist to get the right amount of pace.
“(And) knowing what passes to throw and when to throw hard and when not to throw hard,” Milton said.
He has had a lot of reps during bowl practices and he has also developed the ability put a throw over top so the receivers can run under the ball.
McCaffrey has been waiting for his shot to be starter, as has Milton. The competition is on now, but it will really begin once spring practice starts.
“Everybody’s goal is to be the starter,” Milton said. “My goal is to keep working and get better.”
MICHIGAN VS. ALABAMA
Kickoff: Wednesday, 1 p.m. Camping World Stadium, Orlando
TV/radio: ABC/950 AM
Records: Michigan 9-3, Alabama 10-2
Line: Alabama by 10