Former Cal Poly linebacker Johnny Millard (right) signed a free agent contract with the St. Louis Rams following this year's NFL Draft. | Ian Billings/Mustang News

Keenan Donath

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From John Madden in 1958 to Asa Jackson in 2012, the Cal Poly football team has produced its share of NFL players. This year, Johnny Millard, who started all 12 games at linebacker for the Mustangs in 2013, will get the chance to join the ranks as he attempts to make the St. Louis Rams’ opening day roster.

Millard signed with the Rams as a free agent shortly after the 2014 NFL Draft more than a week ago. The son of 10-year NFL veteran Keith Millard faces a tall task in cracking the roster of a suddenly stout St. Louis defense. Regardless, Millard is hopeful that he can build off of his accomplished college career and be productive at the next level.

“I talked to (the Rams) before the draft a little bit, and I thought it would be a good situation for me.” Millard said. “For me, it’s been a lifelong dream. When I got the call, I was ecstatic, emotional and overwhelmed, but most importantly, I was ready to get to work.”

That should be no problem for the linebacker, who has garnered second team All-Big Sky Conference honors in each of his last two seasons at Cal Poly. Millard is coming off his strongest season donning the green and gold, recording 108 tackles, 15 of which came against Northern Colorado in the final game of the season. According to Cal Poly football head coach Tim Walsh, Millard was an integral part of the defense and will bring a unique skill set to the NFL.

“Number one, he is really a smart player,” Walsh said. “He understands the game and he will do anything to make the team. He is going to be a guy that everyone wants on their team because he can play either outside linebacker position, which makes him more marketable.”

Millard said not hearing his name called in the draft was a little unexpected.

“I was disappointed that I didn’t get drafted,” he said. “I talked to a good amount of teams before the draft. I didn’t let it get me down, I am just going to use it as motivation.”

He will have his work cut out for him, as the Rams picked up 26 players through either the draft, free agency or as undrafted free agents, all vying for limited spots on the 53-man roster.

The most publicized Ram pickup was former Missouri linebacker Michael Sam, who looks to make history as the league’s first openly gay player. As a teammate to Sam, Millard looks beyond the media circus and sees him just as any another potential teammate.

“Mike is my teammate and that is all I care about,” Millard said. “He is here to work and he is here to play football. He is family just like any of my other teammates,” he said.

Millard, though now focused on St. Louis, reflected on his time in San Luis Obispo.

“I am going to miss my teammates and my coaches and the relationships I have developed over the years with them,” Millard said. “My best memories are playing in front of the fans. It was a great time in my life.”

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