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Collected Wisdom: Matt Millen, ESPN analyst and former Detroit Lions president/GM

Former Detroit Lions president/general manager Matt Millen discusses the Penn State scandal, his time in Detroit and his trips in the Madden cruiser.
Interviewed BY BERRY TRAMEL, btramel@opubco.com Modified: December 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm •  Published: December 24, 2011
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ESPN's Matt Millen will be the analyst for both the Insight Bowl on Friday night and the Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl.

Millen drew notoriety for his 7 1/2 seasons as president/general manager of the Detroit Lions, who went 31-84 during that time, one of the worst stretches in NFL history.

Millen also drew acclaim in November for his emotional and stern response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, his alma mater.

Millen grew up in Hokendauqua, Pa., became an all-American linebacker at Penn State and played 12 NFL seasons, winning four Super Bowls with the Raiders (1980, 1983), 49ers (1989) and Redskins (1991).

Millen was an NFL analyst for FOX before joining the Lions. This season, he called two OSU games (Texas A&M, Texas) and two OU games (Kansas State, Baylor).

The difference in calling the NFL and college is so many guys. Because you have 100 guys on a (college) roster, and you don't see them week in and week out. I come down to NFL Films, still do NFL Network, I can pretty much know their roster. I've known them through college. They don't change that much. A college roster, there's a lot of moving parts. Guys move relative quickly. The good players you only have for three years. And they develop.

It's kind of fun. Because take a Landry Jones, for example. Landry Jones is a better player now than he was two years ago. He's a better player now than he was at the beginning of the season. You have to track that. Takes a lot of tape work.

Then the pieces around him change. Lot more moving parts, though schematically, they don't change that much. But they do in terms of how players develop and what skill sets they bring.

I enjoy the game. I enjoy being around the game. Different aspects of the game. The game of football is just a fascinating game. We talk about guys who have a certain skill set, but it's still about people. It's about what they bring to the table, their qualities as a person.

What the game does, it magnifies your strengths, but it also magnifies your weaknesses. That's through the great little quality known as pressure. Pressure comes in a lot of different ways. Whether on a national TV audience or maybe 100,000-seat stadium, or maybe playing against a great player, or maybe expectations placed on you, or maybe it comes from within. Sometimes pressure crushes a guy. Sometimes they get better. That's the part that's fascinating.

Who handled pressure the best? Heck, there's a lot of 'em. Joe Montana probably tops the list. Joe, the bigger the game, the better he played. Steve Young wasn't too shabby. Jim Plunkett, you could put him right up there. I've always said if Jim Plunkett had not been drafted by the New England Patriots, we might be saying that Tom Brady is the next Jim Plunkett. His ability, he was a great decision-maker. In a lot of ways, (Stanford's Andrew) Luck is like him. Luck has some Plunkett in him.

Marcus Allen, Howie Long, Greg Pruitt. I loved Greg Pruitt. Greg Pruitt was one of my favorite players. At Cleveland, he had his hello/goodbye shirt. He came to the Raiders. It was a pleasure to play with him. He was still a great player, though his knees were beat up. One of the funnest guys to be around. Kenny King, there's another one. So many guys I had the pleasure to play with who rose when the lights came on.

Al Davis (Raiders owner) forgot more football than people knew. He was always two steps ahead of you. He never asked a question he didn't know the answer to. He would always make you uncomfortable with his brain. Then he would put you in a position to answer. He was a fascinating guy.

One of those guys who was probably the smartest guy in the room. You could always learn from him.

Tom Flores (Raiders coach), cool under pressure. Tom was one of those guys, kind of a player's guy. As long as you got the job done, he let you go. If you didn't get the job done, he addressed you. I learned that my rookie year. As long as you were playing, he was fine. If he said anything to you, it was rare. It was because you needed to get something straightened out.

Bill Walsh, I didn't have as my head coach. But he was around (the 49ers). I used to talk with Bill all the time. Bill Walsh to me was thorough. Bill was detailed. Bill gave every subject thought. He broke it down to its purest form. He had the ability to address a thing on its elementary elements. He was able to make the sophisticated simple. And he loved the game. It oozed out of him.

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