NORMAN — Twelve months ago, several Oklahoma underclassmen were considering skipping their senior seasons and entering the 2013 NFL Draft.
Wide receiver Kenny Stills ultimately made the jump, and a few days before the Sooners' Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M, he spoke with reporters about another junior who was weighing his options — fullback Trey Millard.
“It's different because fullbacks don't get taken as much,” Stills said then. “They have to consider the punishment their bodies are taking. Their careers are cut a little bit short than the rest of ours.”
Injuries were certainly a factor Millard considered before ultimately deciding to return for his senior year. Because he accepted that risk, Millard remains at peace with his decision, even though a late-October ACL tear prematurely ended his college career.
“No regrets at all,” Millard told The Oklahoman in a telephone interview this week. “I knew when I came back that this was a possibility. I think before the injury, I grew even more as a football player and as a leader of the team. I loved that I came back and played with my guys.”
Millard said his recovery is on schedule and that he even started lifting weights again this week. Those small victories, though, don't make the fact that he'll miss Oklahoma's Sugar Bowl matchup with Alabama any easier.
He tore an ACL while playing on kickoff coverage early in the fourth quarter of the Sooners' 38-30 win over Texas Tech on Oct. 26.
Only 12 days later, Millard watched from the sideline as Baylor routed Oklahoma 41-12.
“It was extremely frustrating,” Millard said. “Just to be on the sideline for a game like that, when you lose like that, you definitely want to be out there helping your team.”
But Millard has also been impressed with his team's resilience since that embarrassing night in Waco, Texas.
“It's a testament to our character,” Millard said. “In the face of adversity, guys don't feel sorry for themselves. Guys don't really get down on themselves.”
Millard is trying to focus on his day-to-day recovery, and not think too much about the pre-Draft process that is still a couple months away.
But he knows that his injury will likely cause him to fall down NFL team's draft boards. Fullbacks already struggle to be picked in the first few rounds.
Millard said February's NFL Scouting Combine is “out of the question,” and that he'd probably still be limited by the time OU hosts its Pro Day in March.
“I might have a special Pro Day later, just me by myself,” Millard said. “(The injury) is probably gonna knock me down a little bit in the draft, but with everything as far as technologies, doctors and therapy now, it's not as huge a hindrance. I should be ready for training camp, which is a big deal.”
For now, though he's excited about Oklahoma's Sugar Bowl berth, even though he obviously wishes he was healthy enough to play in the game.
The versatile senior captain — who some coaches have called the best player on the team — would have seemingly been a very valuable weapon for the Sooners to have against the mighty Crimson Tide, who have won three out of the last four national championships.
“They've been one of the most dominating teams since I started playing college football,” Millard said of Alabama. “I would love to be out there for my last game to play this team, but that's not in the cards for me. I'm just gonna help out in all the ways that I can.”