Saturday’s 267-yard rushing performance by Dedrick Mills which earned him the NJCAA Player of the Week honors was a year in the making.
Mills never thought he’d be at Garden City Community College, let alone in the GCCC program for two seasons.
Coming out of high school, Mills was a much-sought after three-star prospect, and eventually enrolled at Georgia Tech.
In the Yellowjackets’ lethal triple option attack, Mills rushed for 771 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman in 2016.
He was primed for another big year in 2017, but was dismissed just before the season began for violating the program’s substance-abuse policy for the third time, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
He was relegated to junior college football, with the idea of getting back to the NCAA Division I level as soon as possible. But just two games into 2017 with the Busters, Mills broke his collar bone, ending his 2017 season.
“It’s been hard,” Mills said, “because it took a lot of work to strengthen my shoulder back up. I was kind of depressed the way my season ended last year.”
That feeling extended all the way into December, when the junior college season finished and he was facing the prospect of having to return to GCCC for 2018.
“My whole December, I had a birthday and I was still depressed,” he said. “My birthday didn’t brighten me up. Christmas didn’t brighten me up. I was just depressed, because football is my passion. This is what I love to do, every day.”
Mills potentially could have returned for the final few games of the season, but “there was really no point in coming back,” he said.
But perhaps it took getting back on the field for Mills’ spirit to lift, because spring football came around, and Mills’ attitude and play felt like there was never a lull, GCCC head coach Jeff Sims said.
“Dedrick’s really easy to coach,” Sims said. “I’ve coached 49 NFL players, and they all have one common trait — they all love football. And they love it like Christmas morning, and that’s Dedrick. He loves it.”
His love, passion and talent for football was proven once again on Saturday, when Mills ran over Dodge City to help the Busters snag a 52-24 win.
“Coming back in the spring, I started working hard, I strengthened my shoulder back up, and now I came out here (Saturday) and did everything I’ve been working on since I got injured,” Mills said. “I promised I’d come back 10 times stronger.”
Mills made another promise this week, as well. He verbally committed to the University of Nebraska.
“Like to take the time and say thank you Nebraska for a second chance,” Mills wrote on Twitter, announcing his commitment.
Note: Mills was named the NJCAA Player of the Week earlier this week.