Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011
Posted: 11:17 a.m.
By Taylor Bell
Jack Milas smiles too much. Maybe it is because he is examining his awesome passing statistics. Or the Rolling Meadows quarterback knows he has another year to get even better and he hasn't been sacked by a linebacker as mean as Dick Butkus.
"I always smile. I'm just a happy person. I just like to have fun," Milas said. "I have several goals this season -- complete 70 percent of my passes, lead the area in touchdown passes and yards passing, be the No. 1 quarterback in the area, be a leader, don't get down like I did last year, have fun and keep smiling."
The 6-foot-2, 192-pound junior has good reason to smile. He is one of the most prolific and accurate and productive passers in the state. In four games, he has completed 68 percent (108 of 160) of his passes for 1,261 yards and 15 touchdowns for a 3-1 team that hopes to contend in the Mid-Suburban East Conference.
Milas is on pace to become only the fifth player in state history to pass for more than 4,000 yards in a season. In his opener, he passed for 493 yards, 13th on the all-time single-game list. He was 33-of-59 in that game, then was 16-of-20 for 294 yards and four touchdowns in a little over a half in last Friday's 53-7 rout of Hoffman Estates. He'll test Wheeling Friday night at homecoming.
"He is as accurate as any quarterback I've been around," said coach Matt Mishler. "It's too early to compare him to (former Prospect star) Miles Osei, the most accurate high school quarterback I have seen. But Jack is right there. He has all the throws. He has swagger. He understands the game. He is a Division I prospect and there isn't a lot he can't do with a ball."
Rolling Meadows' spread offense, which averages 37.7 points per game, is effective because Milas has two exceptionally talented receivers in Artie Checchin and Ryan Gunderson, who operate on one side, while Tyler Bobowski and John Burkiewicz or Jacob Grant line up on the other side.
"It's four-wide-and-let-it-fly. We pass the ball to set up our run," Milas said. "That's why Missouri is my dream school. They run a spread offense and I want to be in an offense that throws the ball. I like what they do. It is like our spread. They don't run much. They rely heavily on the quarterback."
Until four weeks ago, nobody knew anything about Milas. Neither he nor Rolling Meadows commanded any respect. The Mustangs were picked to finish last in their division. Milas was a defensive end as an eighth grader, then decided to try out for quarterback as a freshman. As a sophomore, he started the last five games for a 4-5 team, then suffered an arm injury.
So nobody expected very much from Rolling Meadows this season -- except Mishler, Milas and the folks in Rolling Meadows.
"I expected (Milas) to be what he has been this year," said Mishler, who was the offensive coordinator last season. "I'm not surprised by what he has done. He always has had arm strength and accuracy. I knew he could get better. If he can function like this with the line in front of him, the sky is the limit."
Milas isn't surprised, either. "The players and coaches knew we would be good. We returned every skilled player and a lot of defensive players. We just had to put it together. Last year, nobody was like a team. Now we have great leadership. Our team always hangs out together. Now I have a lot of fun completing passes," he said.
To improve his footwork and ability to read defenses, he attended Jeff Christensen's quarterback camp. He didn't like defense and wanted to be a quarterback. As a pitcher and third baseman on the baseball team, he knew he had a strong arm. And he played quarterback in pickup football games.
"I love football. It's my favorite sport, what I want to pursue in college," said Miles, a versatile athlete who also plays basketball.
"Baseball is fun but it doesn't have the same feel as football. Football is a team sport, intense, with highs and lows. But the highs are great. I want to go somewhere where I have a chance to play in college at the highest level I can."
Milas credits Christensen and Rolling Meadows offensive coordinator Steve Kolodziej for sharpening his skills and teammate Checchin for helping to change his attitude and approach to the 2011 season.
"I learned to be a leader, to make all the throws, how to warm up, proper footwork," he said about working with Christensen. "And Artie always tells me that I was too uptight as a sophomore, that I didn't feel as if I belonged on the varsity. Now he tells me to have fun."
He hopes college recruiters who haven't heard about him will look at his film against York, to check out what he describes as "my most memorable throw."
"It was fourth down and 15 and we never had run a slot post play before," Milas explained. "I threw a 20-yarder to Gunderson on a post across the middle. He cleared the linebacker and got to the one-yard-line for first down. We scored and won the game. It showed my accuracy, knowing what the coverage was and what I had there.
"Nobody knew who I was four weeks ago. Now I am making progress and doing everything I can to be recruited. I hope people will notice me. I hurt my arm in baseball and took two months off from throwing. So I plan to work harder in the off-season. I can be twice as good as I am."