Dee Milliner was an elite defensive back during his days with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Unfortunately, an assortment of injuries limited him to just twenty-one games in his three-year NFL career with the New York Jets.
Had he remained healthy, he could’ve joined Darrelle Revis, Jim Leonhard, Antonio Cromartie, and Ty Law as some of the best defensive backs in Jets franchise history.
DeMarcus Armon “Dee” Milliner was born in Deatsville, AL on September 14, 1991.
He grew up in Millbrook, a town ten miles south of Deatsville.
Milliner played 6A football – the highest level in Alabama – for the Stanhope Elmore Mustangs, the local high school football team.
He excelled at the cornerback position ever since his freshman year.
In his first start against the Auburn High School Tigers, he picked off a pass and scored on a 40-yard defensive touchdown.
The following year, Milliner became a Montgomery Adviser All-Metro 5A-6A selection.
He earned Area Defensive Player of the Year honors as a junior after registering 57 total tackles, 33 solo tackles, and seven interceptions.
He also saw time at running back and special teams that season.
Milliner amassed 527 yards on the ground and returned a kickoff and two punts for touchdowns during his junior year.
As a senior, Milliner amassed 71 total tackles.
However, he intercepted just three passes that year.
It certainly wasn’t for lack of effort.
We're 5 days from our AL MS All Star Game. Today we highlight Demarcus "Dee" Milliner from our 2009 game. After his time at Stanhope Elmore, Dee went on to play at Alabama and was taken in the 1st round of the draft by the Jets. See more of Alabama's best Monday at Cramton Bowl. pic.twitter.com/60MUtvO3rF
— AHSAA (@AHSAAUpdates) December 12, 2018
According to GangGreenNation.com’s David Wyatt Hupton, Milliner’s reputation as a shutdown cornerback had already spread far and wide.
Consequently, opposing quarterbacks didn’t want to throw the football his way.
Milliner wasn’t too shabby as a ball carrier, too.
As a senior, he ran for 487 yards on 51 carries for a 9.5 yards per carry average.
He also scored seven touchdowns on the ground during his final season at Stanhope Elmore.
At this point, Dee Milliner’s fame grew even more.
He became a consensus All-State First Team and 2009 USA TODAY All-American selection.
He also played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic, a game featuring the best high school seniors from the two neighboring states.
Milliner didn’t just excel on the gridiron.
He also stood out on the track.
As a member of the Mustangs’ track and field squad, Milliner won first place in the long jump event of the 2008 Auburn Invitation.
He also competed in 100-meter and 200-meter dash events.
Milliner’s athleticism on the track would serve him well on the football field.
His speed helped him shut down the best wide receivers in the state of Alabama.
Milliner, a Rivals.com five-star recruit, No.1 cornerback by Scout.com, and member of the 2010 recruiting class, drew serious nationwide attention.
The Stanford Cardinal, Tennessee Volunteers, Oklahoma Sooners, LSU Tigers, Georgia Bulldogs, and Auburn Tigers recruited him hard, per Hupton.
However, Milliner, who grew up in a household of Alabama Crimson Tide fans, knew where his heart was.
He decided to remain in-state and play for the great Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa, AL.
It was a decision that would bode well for Milliner’s long-term aspirations on the gridiron.
College Days With The Alabama Crimson Tide
When Dee Milliner joined the college football ranks as a true freshman in 2010, the Alabama Crimson Tide had just won their eighth national championship the previous year.
It was also the second of Nick Saban’s eventual seven national titles.
With Dee Milliner on board, he would help solidify Alabama’s status as a college football juggernaut.
He gave a good account of himself during his freshman year.
Milliner recorded 55 total tackles, 41 solo tackles, one interception, seven pass breakups, and one fumble recovery in thirteen games and eleven starts for Alabama.
Dee Milliner, Alabama CB pic.twitter.com/C5IMrgGGeB
— Bial (@ocho_bingo) May 4, 2021
He had a season-high eight tackles in the Crimson Tide’s 30-10 romp over the 17th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs on November 13, 2010.
He was a member of Scout.com’s 2010 All-Freshman Team on defense and special teams.
Scout.com’s Richard Cirminiello lauded Milliner’s size (6’0″, 201 lbs.) and speed.
He even wrote the Alabama cornerback “has the potential to be the SEC’s top cover corner before too long.”
Other future NFL stars who made Cirminiello’s list include defensive end Barkevious Mingo, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, and linebacker C.J. Mosley.
Alabama won ten of thirteen games during the 2010 NCAA season and finished the year ranked 10th in the final Associated Press poll.
While the Crimson Tide didn’t achieve their goal of winning another championship, they routed the Michigan State Spartans in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, FL on New Year’s Day, 49-7.
That victory would help set the tone for the next two seasons.
Despite Dee Milliner’s impressive performance as a true freshman shutdown defensive back, he slid down Saban’s cornerback depth chart during the 2011 NCAA campaign.
Milliner was the third cornerback who played behind Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie.
Milliner did play in all thirteen games.
However, he only started six of them while playing mostly in nickel and dime packages.
Consequently, he produced just 14 solo tackles in 2011 – a big discrepancy from the 41 he produced as a freshman.
Nonetheless, he ramped up his interception total to three.
Milliner returned one of those picks 35 yards into the end zone in the fourth quarter of Alabama’s 42-14 Iron Bowl romp over the Auburn Tigers on November 26, 2011.
He also added nine pass breakups for good measure.
Milliner recorded a single-game career-high three pass breakups in the Crimson Tide’s 27-11 road win over the 23rd-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions on September 10, 2011.
Milliner’s three picks were the most for an Alabama defensive player in 2011. His nine pass breakups ranked him second on the squad.
2011 – (2) Bama vs (24) Auburn
Another one of my favorite dudes here – Dee Milliner. Picked on a lot as a freshman. Wound up being All World before he left. Really hate that it didn’t work out for him in the league pic.twitter.com/EJbR052lqr
— WMack (@WMack) December 20, 2019
The fact he accomplished that in just six starts made them all the more impressive.
The No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide finished the 2011 NCAA season with a gaudy 12-1 win-loss record.
They punctuated their memorable campaign with a 21-0 shutout win over Saban’s former team, the LSU Tigers, in the BCS Championship Game in New Orleans, LA on January 9, 2012.
It was sweet vindication for Saban, who won his third national championship.
For his part, Dee Milliner savored his first.
He would serve notice that he was one of the nation’s top cornerbacks during his junior season at Alabama.
When Kirkpatrick and Menzie declared for the 2012 NFL Draft, Milliner became the Crimson Tide’s No. 1 defensive back.
As a junior, Milliner amassed 51 tackles and two interceptions in 13 appearances (all of which he started).
His 18 pass breakups ranked him third on the Crimson Tide’s single-season list.
Milliner’s 34 career pass breakups also ranked him second in Alabama’s all-time list, per GangGreenNation.com.
He had four breakups twice during the 2012 NCAA season.
He first did it during the season-opening 41-14 blowout win over the eighth-ranked Michigan Wolverines at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 1, 2012.
Milliner duplicated the feat a month later in Alabama’s 33-14 victory over the visiting Ole Miss Rebels.
He also had three pass breakups against the Missouri Tigers on the road a week later.
Alabama won in runaway fashion, 42-10.
The No.1-ranked Crimson Tide won thirteen of fourteen games in the 2012 NCAA season.
They won their tenth national title after they disposed of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the BCS Championship Game on January 7, 2013.
Alabama led 14-0 after the first quarter and never looked back.
Nick Saban won his fourth championship with a 42-14 lopsided win over the Fighting Irish.
Dee Milliner, who had three tackles against Notre Dame, savored his second national title.
He also earned a slew of accolades after his junior season in Tuscaloosa.
Milliner earned unanimous First-Team All-American and All-SEC honors.
He was also a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Jim Thorpe Award.
Despite Milliner’s status as one of the top shutdown defensive backs in the nation, he already had an extensive injury history.
Milliner had already undergone five surgeries for his right knee, a sports hernia, a right tibia stress fracture, and one for each of his shoulders, per Hupton.
Nonetheless, Milliner missed just one game during his three-year stint at Alabama.
He decided to skip his senior season and declare for the NFL Draft on January 12, 2013.
Even though Dee Milliner had the makings of an elite cornerback in the National Football League, his injury history would eventually take its toll on him in the pro ranks.
Pro Football Career
When NFL.com asked Dee Milliner whose cornerback playing styles he studied the most, he named two players: Deion Sanders and Leon Sandcastle.
Milliner told the league’s official website in February 2013 Prime Time’s mentality and swagger set him apart from other defensive backs:
“It’s Prime Time! You’ve got to love him.”
“He’s a great player. He had the mentality and swagger that a defensive back should have. He went out there and would tell you what he’s going to do and backed it up 100 percent.”
On the other hand, Milliner raved about Sandcastle’s blazing speed on the gridiron, per NFL.com.
Regrettably, Dee Milliner’s play in the National Football league never came close to the level both Sanders and Sandcastle displayed on the gridiron.
Milliner’s NFL career didn’t start on a high note.
A torn labrum prevented him from participating in the bench press at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, IN.
Milliner put off surgery until the following month so he can take part in the other drills at the combine.
“I felt the need that I had to come out and do something,” he told NFL.com. “I ain’t just want to sit out the combine and pro day and you guys start wondering, saying this and that.”
Milliner put doubts about his speed to rest with a time of 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
It was the second-best finish among cornerbacks, per The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane.
The New York Jets were in hot pursuit of the former Crimson Tide cornerback.
Even though the Jets finished second in pass defense in the NFL (they surrendered 3,036 yards in the air), they were just 20th in the league in team defense in 2012.
Gang Green allowed 5,174 all-purpose yards during the 2012 NFL season.
They thought that Milliner would help shore up that porous Jets defense.
The Jets, who won just six games in 2012 and missed the postseason for a second straight year, made Milliner the ninth overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft.
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) April 5, 2020
According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, Milliner signed a four-year, $12.66 million contract.
He was expected to compete for a starting cornerback spot with Kyle Wilson.
The spot became vacant after the Jets traded Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the offseason.
Milliner eventually won the starting job and started alongside Antonio Cromartie at cornerback for the Jets in 2013.
Unfortunately, Milliner got off to a rocky start.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan benched Milliner for a third time in 2013 after he allowed Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace to score a touchdown.
The Dolphins routed the Jets, 23-3.
Ryan yanked Milliner from the game in the waning moments of the third quarter.
The Jets head coach kneeled in front of Milliner and admonished him, per NJ.com’s Michael J. Fensom.
Milliner bounced back with a vengeance as the season wound down.
He racked up three interceptions against the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins in consecutive weeks.
Milliner’s two-interception performance not only helped the Jets avenge their earlier loss to the Dolphins (they won 20-7), but it also earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month honors.
Dee Milliner would play in just eight more games for the rest of his NFL career.
The Jets won eight games and missed the postseason bus yet again in 2013.
Unfortunately, Dee Milliner couldn’t build on his late rookie season momentum.
Not a good look for former Top 10 pick out of Alabama CB Dee Milliner (going against the 2s). pic.twitter.com/zVS3cji5Pp
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) August 28, 2016
Worse, his assortment of injuries took a massive toll on his pro football career.
Milliner sprained his ankle during training camp in the summer of 2014.
Jets CB Dee Milliner expected to miss 3-4 weeks w/ high ankle sprain. Return for regular-season opener is uncertain. pic.twitter.com/UBSjJ15DwK
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 11, 2014
The Jets activated him in time for the Week 2 game against the Green Bay Packers.
However, Milliner, making a rare special teams appearance, tore his Achilles tendon while he was trying to block a field goal in the Jets’ 31-17 loss to the Denver Broncos on October 13, 2014.
The injury forced him to sit out the rest of the 2014 NFL season.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan weighed in on losing Milliner for the year, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini:
“Dee Milliner was going to be…is going to be an outstanding player. I know he hasn’t been out there as much as we would’ve liked, but the young man has tons of talent. It’s just a matter of him staying healthy.”
Unfortunately, Ryan’s outlook for Milliner’s career never came to fruition.
With Milliner out of commission, the Jets crashed and burned in 2014.
By winning just four games, Gang Green matched their worst win total in seven seasons.
The Jets consequently fired Ryan and second-year GM John Idzik after a tumultuous campaign.
The unfortunate series of events comes in the wake of Milliner declaring himself the best cornerback in the league.
He made that bold proclamation to the New York Daily News‘ Manish Mehta on July 26, 2014:
“The best corner in the league? Me. I ain’t gonna say that somebody else is better than me.”
“I’m not going to say somebody that plays the same position is better than me. Don’t care if they’ve been in the league ten years and I’ve been here five months.”
“That’s how it’s going to go. I’m the best.”
Milliner made the statement prior to spraining his ankle during Jets training camp.
The 2015 NFL season didn’t get any better for Dee Milliner.
Offseason wrist surgery limited him to just five appearances that year.
While the Jets won ten games under the leadership of new head coach Todd Bowles, they failed to reach postseason play yet again in 2015.
To nobody’s surprise, the Jets declined Milliner’s fifth-year option on May 2, 2016.
They placed him on their injured reserve list four months later.
The New York Jets eventually released Dee Milliner on September 28, 2016.
— TU NOTIMUNDO (@tunotimundo) September 3, 2016
No other NFL team expressed an interest to sign him after that fateful day.
Just five days after Milliner’s release from the Jets, he was involved in a bar brawl in his home state of Alabama.
Milliner recorded 63 total tackles, 50 solo tackles, and three interceptions in just twenty-one career NFL games over a three-year span.
Not even his futile attempt at yoga could revive his injury-ravaged career in the pro ranks.
Ever since Dee Milliner’s fallout from the National Football League, not much has been known about his professional and personal endeavors.
However, he remains active on his Instagram account.
For now, fans will remember Milliner as an injury-prone cornerback who never lived up to his full potential.