FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 02, 2007
"Super Bowl" is Good on the Resume

Nov. 2, 2007

Ernie Mills, a nine-year NFL veteran, joins the staff of the Dolphins this year as wide receivers coach. He is reuniting with former Florida Gators' teammate, JU head coach Kerwin Bell.

"Sometimes during the offseason, we would get together, work out and run routes when I was in the pros," said Mills. "We kept in touch periodically through the years. He coached at Trinity Catholic, which was the area I grew up, so of course everybody in my hometown filled me in on what he was doing."

Mills had a very successful college career (1986-1990), which ended with a 9-2 season under first-year head coach Steve Spurrier.

"My senior year as a wide receiver was the first time being opened up to the passing game," Mills said. "I grew each year as a receiver but we were a running team with Emmitt Smith. When Coach Spurrier came in, he came in throwing.

"The way he taught the passing game made it very simple. He actually ran our meetings and would show us different coverages and how to beat them."

After his senior season, Mills became the Pittsburgh Steelers' third round selection (73rd overall) in the 1991 NFL Draft, though his career took a little longer to get underway after he held out of the first 30 days of training camp.

"I wasn't holding out for money," said Mills. "I was just holding out for the length of the deal. They were trying to sign me to a four-year deal, and nobody in the third round had signed four-year deals, so I just stuck to my guns."

Mills played six seasons in Pittsburgh, his best of which was 1995. Not only did he have career highs with 39 receptions, 679 yards and eight touchdowns, but he also was part of a Steelers team that made it to the Super Bowl.

"It was probably the biggest event I have ever been involved in," Mills said. "I have gone to Super Bowls, but I usually go to a friend's house and watch the game. I always said when I was playing, I would only go to the game if I was playing in it.

"We got to enjoy the off week in Pittsburgh, but the week leading up to the game was filled with anxiety. You know everybody in the world is watching. The biggest thing on my mind was not to embarrass myself, but I ended up with one of my best games as a pro."

Though they lost to the Dallas Cowboys, Mills still managed to have a good game - hauling in eight passes for 78 yards.

"It was the highs and the lows," said Mills. "I had a great game, catching everything in sight. It was one of those games where the ball actually looked like a beach ball when it was coming to me. But in the fourth quarter, I tear my ACL with six minutes left in the game and we lose. It was an emotional rollercoaster for me."

After the injury forced him to miss most of the 1996 season, Mills decided to leave Pittsburgh and signed with the Carolina Panthers. He spent one year in Carolina before joining the Cowboys, the team that defeated him and his Steelers just a few years earlier.

Mills enjoyed two successful seasons in Dallas before retiring after the 1999 season. He made 196 career receptions for 2,934 yards and 20 touchdowns.

"It was great," said Mills. "Everybody who plays the game dreams of making it to that level. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity and be healthy long enough to perform my skills. I never imagined playing nine years, but it was a blessing and I wouldn't change it."

He began his coaching career as an intern wide receivers coach with the Miami Dolphins. His next step was wide receivers coach at Johnson C. Smith University. After one year at Johnson C. Smith, he took a job at Phillip O'Berry Academy in Charlotte, N.C., as the assistant head coach, where he spent three seasons before joining JU.

"One of the reasons I was in North Carolina was because my younger brother was playing at Marshall," said Mills. "I was able to go watch him play his college football career. After he was done playing, I said okay, it is time for me to move back to Florida. With Kerwin getting this opportunity, and giving me an opportunity, it's great to be back in Florida and Jacksonville is a good city to be in."