Lawyer Milloy is back where he believes he belongs, starting at strong safety for the Seahawks and barking out orders to the defensive secondary. For him, starting is everything.
Out of football and running out of options, Lawyer Milloy jumped at the chance last year to join his former coach Jim Mora and play for the Seattle Seahawks.
It seemed like a great idea. Here was the Washington Huskies standout, returning close to his hometown of Tacoma, just weeks before the start of the season and to finish out a decorated NFL career.
After 13 years as a starter in New England, Buffalo and Atlanta, he was universally praised for putting aside his ego and accepting a backup role.
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Milloy did whatever was asked. He played sparingly, finished with a career-low 29 tackles and saw action primarily with the special teams.
In hindsight, it was an unmitigated disaster.
“Last year, I didn’t like it,” Milloy said. “I didn’t like the role that I was put in. It was really mapped out to me clearly, but I really didn’t hear it.
“Given that, I don’t know if I would have signed on the paper if I knew my role was going to be completely like it was last year, because I wasn’t ready to give up a chance to be in a leadership role, to be on the field leading a team.”
Sunday afternoon, Milloy felt as if he had returned home when the Seahawks held a controlled scrimmage in front of 6,231 fans at Husky Stadium.
He grew nostalgic about practicing on the field where he became a consensus All-American as a college junior in 1995.
“I bleed purple and gold,” Milloy said. “They gave me my head start. They taught me how it’s done. Not only at this level, but in the NFL. You come here. You stay humble. You work hard. You be dependable individually. And those are all of the things I still live by today.”
Those principles were tested last season, but Milloy is back where he believes he belongs, starting at strong safety for the Seahawks and barking out orders to the defensive secondary.
For him, starting is everything. He has started 198 games in the NFL and struggles to remember any time other than last season when he was a backup.
“It’s never fine for me not to be in a starting position,” Milloy said. “It’s not. I don’t play the game to sit on the bench and watch. If we would have won the Super Bowl, maybe that would have been a little different but it still would have been sour for me.”
Milloy contemplated retirement in the offseason before talking with another former coach, Pete Carroll. They paired together in New England during the 1997-99 seasons, which is the most productive three-year period in Milloy’s career.
In 1998, he intercepted a career-best six passes and the next season he finished with a career-best 173 tackles. Milloy was chosen to the Pro Bowl both seasons.
Milloy re-signed with the Seahawks in April and this time he was given a chance to compete for the starting job, which he appears to have secured after a week of training camp.
“Lawyer still looks like an ox out there,” said 21-year-old rookie Earl Thomas. “He stays healthy and he knows the game. That’s why he’s able to maintain.”
Milloy’s No. 36 jersey matches his age and he’s the second-oldest player on the roster, behind Olindo Mare, who is five months older.
Adhering to a strict diet and staying active during the offseason is essential to a long NFL career, said Milloy, who’s entering his 15th season.
He laughed when someone compared him to Brett Favre and became evasive when the conversation turned to his retirement.
“I don’t put numbers on it,” Milloy said. “As long as it’s fun to me and I’m still capable, I’ll do it.”