McMillian hopes to finish UH rollercoaster ride with win

Senior corner Zachary McMillian is tied for second on the team with four interceptions. | Caitlin Hilton/The Daily Cougar

Senior cornerback Zachary McMillian is tied for second on the team with four interceptions. | Caitlin Hilton/The Daily Cougar

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The media always seem to enjoy interviewing Zachary McMillian. He enjoys elaborating on simplistic questions and instantly draws attention with his grabbing voice.

But on Friday, the senior cornerback, while sporting his UH letterman jacket, addressed the UH media for the last time before he takes the field for his final collegiate game. He and his Cougars will face the Commodores in the BBVA Compass Bowl at Legion Field.

McMillian has gone through a roller-coaster ride during his four-year tenure. He has endured two 5-7 seasons (freshman ’10, junior ’12) in which they failed to reach a bowl game, a 13-1 campaign that was capped off with a win in the TicketCity Bowl against Penn State and now an 8-4 regular season, with a ninth win possible if UH comes away victorious against Vanderbilt.

But he had a similar roller-coaster ride when deciding what he wanted to do as he was growing up. He has always wanted to play football, even though his father, Audray, wanted him to play golf, insisting that he wouldn’t want his son to endure the pain that will continue to creep on his body as he gets older. After all, Audray put on the same Cougar uniform for four seasons before heading to professional football.

Audray played nine seasons in the NFL and was selected onto the Pro Bowl roster in 1992 after tying the lead league in interceptions with eight.

“It’s almost like a task you don’t want to live up to,” Zachary said. “I think, just being able to play in front of my family and friends since I’ve been here, it’s an honor to go out and play for the University of Houston.”

Even though Andray has retired, he still frequents UH, often stopping by practice to give tips and demonstrate techniques to Zachary and the rest of the secondary.

“It’s like having the answers to the test before even you even receive it,” Zachary said.

Zachary’s next and final collegiate football test will be trying to slow down Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, who finished the regular season with 1334 receiving yards, seventh-most in the nation.

McMillian is the quarterback of the secondary, helping teammates like sophomores Adrian McDonald, who leads the team with five interceptions, and Trevon Stewart, who leads the nation in forced turnovers, become ball hawks. McMillian tied for second on the team with four interceptions.

In 2012, after a season-ending injury to former UH cornerback D.J. Hayden, McMillian moved over to the starting corner position. He didn’t disappoint as he led his team and tied the Conference USA lead with five interceptions.

“It seems like it was just yesterday that I was sitting in his living room,” Levine said. “I personally recruited Zach while I was an assistant coach, and I also remember it like it was yesterday, being at practice at Dulles High School with coach (Jim) Creech and watching him practice. We go pretty far back. He has a great, great family, and I knew he would become a captain for us one day.”

Levine’s projection came true, as McMillian was voted as a team captain at the start of the season, providing leadership to his teammates despite his 5-foot-10 frame.

On his Facebook cover page, McMillian has a photo that displays him recording an interception against UCLA last season with the caption, “They measured my height. They measured my weight. But they never measured … my heart.”

McMillian said he has been listening to ESPN’s Herm Edwards, jotting down advice for the game: “Leaving everything out on the field and not (having) any emotional regret about it. I’m going to give it everything I have.”

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