Chicago Bears offensive lineman Jordan Mills, selected by the club in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, spent much of his childhood following his cousins: Tramon Williams, cornerback for the Green Bay Packers, and Brandon Jacobs, running back formerly with the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers.
"They were always skilled players,” Mills said shortly after being selected. “I'd try to sneak off, go where they went. It was exciting to be around them.”
Mills also relied on television for his “football fix.”
"I used to watch a lot of the old games on the NFL Network," Mills said at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. "I loved those tough guys. Mike Ditka, Mean Joe Greene, Lawrence Taylor. What was best about them? They were so mean. I learned nastiness from those players. The way I characterize their play is reckless abandon. It made an impression on me. I'm a nice guy off the field but you don't want to mess with me on game day."
Another role model for Mills was New Orleans Saints Hall of Famer Willie Roaf, an NFL offensive linemen who, like Mills, attended Louisiana Tech.
"Our coaches used to run game film of [Roaf] all the time," Mills said. "He had great skills and was definitely tough on the field. His footwork and sense of the ball were impressive. I tried to model my play on that."
Off the field, Mills is close to his three brothers and three sisters. Like Mills, the rest of the family enjoyed athletics growing up.
"We'd do track, basketball, that kind of thing," he said.
At 6-5, 316 pounds, Mills should add bulk to Chicago’s offensive line. Mills played mainly right tackle in college, although he did spend time briefly at guard during his freshman year. Bears GM Phil Emery said Mills will start off at right tackle, yet one of the reasons the team drafted him was because of his positional versatility. Yet for Mills, he’ll be happy to play wherever the coaches put him.
"Anything I can do, anyplace I go on the line, I'll do whatever I can to help this team win.”
Although his days of following around his cousins are in the past, Mills is eager to continue the process of developing as a football player in Chicago.
"The Bears have a strong offensive line," Mills said. "I'm coming in to learn as much from them as I possibly can."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.