Thursday, September 20, 2001
HAWAII football coach June Jones said he was "kind of freaked out." Why would Kelvin Millhouse turn down a scholarship at UH to go to a junior college?
UH turns to Kelvin Millhouse
against tall receivers
By Dave Reardon
He had the prep pedigree, having starred for one of the best high school programs in the nation, Mater Dei of Santa Ana, Calif. He had the grades and test scores. And he had the Division I talent to play receiver for Hawaii.
But Millhouse had a different plan, and the Warriors are glad he stuck with it, going his own way for a year to Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif.
"Out of high school I was getting offers to play receiver and my heart was at cornerback," Millhouse said. "It's just that I've always liked cornerback."
At 6 feet 1 inch and 198 pounds, Millhouse looks like a big receiver or a safety. But his technique is catching up with his speed and athleticism, and now Millhouse is one of the rarest of college football commodities: a skilled cornerback with good size and speed.
He's still learning, but the sophomore is already considered a solid part of the Warriors' defense. Millhouse's ability to shut down opposing receivers is a key to UH rebounding from last year's 3-9 record.
This Saturday in Reno, Millhouse will be matched against Nevada's Nate Burleson, the Wolf Pack's 6-2, 180-pound wide receiver who caught eight passes for 104 yards against UH last year.
"Kelvin will be our guy when we face a really good, big receiver," secondary coach Rich Miano said. "We have confidence in Hyrum (Peters, the other starting corner), but Kelvin presents our best matchup because of his size. It's all about matchups. Kelvin is better against the pass and Hyrum is better against the run."
After Millhouse helped Mt. San Antonio to the Mission Conference championship in 1999, he accepted another scholarship offer from UH.
As a scout team defender while redshirting last year, Millhouse had some great practices.
"He'd have days where he just shut our first-team offense down," said safety Nate Jackson. "It'd be like, wow, he's got five or six picks in one day."
Miano and Jones noticed, and were tempted to push him into game action. But they resisted, thus saving a year of his eligibility.
"He did such a good job on the scout team last year. Every time you turned around, you'd see him making interceptions against the first-string guys. We were like, 'Hey, this guy's going to be a player. He's making interceptions all day,' " Miano said. "We thought about (playing him) a couple times. In retrospect, probably we should have. But it was one of those things where you don't want to rush him to the wolves."
Now, Millhouse is fast becoming one of the predators.
He didn't get an interception in his first game, the Sept. 8 season-opening 30-12 victory over Montana. But he played well, helping limit the Grizzlies to 232 passing yards on 47 attempts.
"At halftime he told me the jitters were gone," Miano said. "I was a little worried that he might not do as well in the games as in practices, but the game doesn't seem to be too big for him."
Jones is impressed, too.
"When we saw him again at Mt. SAC, he wasn't even really a starter. We took him again basically because he's very intelligent and a great athlete," Jones said. "He's developed into a very, very good corner right now. He got better and better every week last year. He doesn't make any mistakes and he can run and anticipate what the offense is going to do before they do it."
Miano and Jones said they can't remember a UH cornerback with Millhouse's size and talent since Jeris White (1970-73). White went on to a successful NFL career.
"Jeris was probably a little more explosive, but Kelvin has all the ingredients to be an NFL cornerback," Miano said. "He's tall, he plays the ball in the air, he can run, he's smart and he's a great kid. I don't know if I will ever be around a better kid. Three years of having Kelvin Millhouse around will be a luxury."
He has another attribute important for outstanding cornerbacks. He's forgetful.
Even the best cornerbacks get burned at times. When they do, it's often for a big gain and it's there for all to see. Millhouse had one such play against Montana.
He knows to learn from it and move on.
"When you make a mistake you have to look toward the next play, you have to have good amnesia," Millhouse said.
Jones and Miano are glad, though, that Kelvin Millhouse remembered the way to Manoa after that year of junior college.
Born: Jan. 7, 1981 in Santa Ana, Calif.
Prep: All-league and all-county in football at Mater Dei High School. Team won 1998 CIF championship
Against Montana: 3 tackles and 1 pass defended in first Division I-A game
Spare time: Enjoys relaxing with friends and going to movies
Parents: Janice and Kelvin Millhouse Sr. of Santa Ana, Calif.