Former Dr. Phillips defensive back Matt Milano is hard at work in Buffalo, looking to not only make an NFL roster, but to become an immediate contributor in his rookie season.
Buoyed by his reputation for a strong work ethic and his versatility on the field, Matt Milano realized one of his lifelong dreams April 29.
The former star for the Dr. Phillips High football team and linebacker for the Boston College Eagles was selected in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.
Milano was surrounded by family and friends when he received the phone call from the Buffalo front office.
“I didn’t really have any expectations going into (the draft),” Milano said. “I prepared for the worse, just in case I didn’t get drafted. It was an exciting experience — I was with my family, so we all got to experience that.”
There’s excitement to go around, too.
For the Bills, Milano is one piece of what ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay believe is the franchise’s best draft in years. Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke has pegged the former Panther as the Bills’ “top sleeper” from this draft, noting his smarts as a linebacker and versatility in his ability to cover receivers if needed. After all, before he was a linebacker in college, Milano was a safety at Dr. Phillips.
And although he may be a sleeper to the national media, the idea that Milano is going places is nothing new to Dr. Phillips head coach Rodney Wells, who coached Milano from 2009 to 2012.
“His commitment to excellence, his commitment to the game — he was all football,” Wells recalled. “Everything he put in his body, the places he went, the way he talked. He was married and committed to being great.”
Then, of course, there were Milano’s surroundings while at Dr. Phillips — learning behind Pro Bowler Ha’Sean “HaHa” Clinton-Dix as sophomore, for example.
“He had some guys to look up to, to follow,” Wells said. “There was greatness all around him, and the way that (Milano) worked — it was going to happen.”
True enough, Milano’s work ethic has a reputation around his old stomping grounds of Dr. Phillips and Boston College — and it translated to a rising stock in the draft. Media reports circulated that Milano was training up to the week of the draft, at a point when doing so was no longer necessary.
For Milano, that work ethic is as much a part of who he is — his nose for the ball is a part of how he defends. It served him well when Boston College transitioned him from safety to linebacker — a move that paid dividends in the end.
“(That work ethic has) been instilled in me since I was younger,” Milano said, reflecting on his work ethic. “Training with different coaches — I started off with Coach Lo Wood … he was kind of the foundation of it all and taught me about hard work and stuff like that.”
Milano is in Buffalo, currently, getting settled in for his offseason training and working hard to make a strong first impression. It may pay off, as analysts expect that he may get a chance to immediately contribute for the Bills on special teams.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Milano said. “It’s a lot of new information, but everyday I’m just trying to get better and learn all the information.”
Whether this is the beginning of a long career in the NFL remains to be seen, but there are not many people who are betting against the former Panther. There’s a precedent for Dr. Phillips players having success on Sundays, after all.
“Every time I say that I went to Dr. Phillips, everybody knows where that’s at,” Milano said. “Everybody knows who came out of there.”
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].