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Peters Twp Coach TJ Plack Feels Honored To Coach Star Safety Donovan McMillon



Prior to the 2019 WPIAL Playoffs in November, Peters Township junior safety Donovan McMillon didn’t hold a single Power Five offer. Fast forward things to February and McMillon finds himself as one of most heavily recruited players in the country as new Power Five offers seem to arrive daily.

Boston College and Georgia Tech were the latest teams to officially offer McMillon on Friday while earlier this week, Lincoln Riley and Oklahoma made a rare attempt at recruiting the WPIAL by offering McMillon.

As things stand today, McMillon’s list of Power Five offers includes Pitt, Purdue, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Louisville, Northwestern, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Penn State, Oklahoma, Boston College and Georgia.

For the most part, all these offers have arrived in the last month which means Peters Township head coach TJ Plack has been a busy man talking with some of the top programs in the country about his star player.

Pittsburgh Sports Now had the chance to talk on Friday with Plack about McMillon and his rise to prominence in the world of college football recruiting.

PSN: From your perspective, what’s it been like to watch Donovan’s recruitment take off as it has and him hearing from some of the top programs in the country? 

TJ Plack: “For as a football program, it’s been extremely exciting to watch. We’re so proud of Donovan and the way he’s handling all of this. I know Donovan and his family are excited about what’s going on right now. He started for us halfway through his sophomore season and really had to change our entire defense to keep him on the field. We had a defensive backfield with a bunch of juniors and then one of them was injured and Donovan went in to replace him. After the game, our defensive staff said we can’t take this guy off the field again, he’s just too good. So we changed our defense to kind of go to a five defensive back kind of system and that’s how we were last year as well. He’s so dynamic of a player. He’s a big hitter, a great tackler, he’s a student of the game and he’s grounded. He’s such a happy, positive, genuine young man. It’s really been an exciting time for everyone. We’ve had guys in our program recruited by other D-I programs but never like this with schools all over from up North, down South and out West.”

PSN: I’m not sure what your expectations were heading into the offseason in terms of attention he’d be receiving. Has all of this surprised you a bit?

TJ Plack: “I’ll tell you who this hasn’t surprised. We have co-defensive coordinators, Donovan’s dad is one of them. The other one is Troy Grunseth. He said all last season ‘Donovan is an SEC defensive back’. He was saying that because of how long he is and just looks and plays like one of them. It’s not a shock to him I’ll tell you that. To me, I still remember Donovan as our 7th grade ball boy and that’s what is so shocking to me. He started as our ball boy, came into our program, started as a sophomore, had a phenomenal junior season and now this is happening. It’s just exciting for everyone.”

PSN: What type of player do you project Donovan to be in college and does his play and physical ability remind you of anyone?

TJ Plack: “I’ll be honest, my time is short on the weekends, I do watch games on the weekend but I don’t know the names. I will say though that he’s a kid, and I think Mike Tomlin says it best, he’s a player that will give a coach position flexibility. Some will project him as some sort of a nickel back, also some type of an outside backer, some might like him as a strong or a free safety. He’s got room to grow still. He’s been holding off the weight because of wrestling. This year he’s been wrestling at a natural 182/185 but he’ll play for us at 195 and I don’t think he’ll have trouble playing at 200 or 205 or even 210 in college. The biggest thing that comes out on tape about him is that the kid hits, the kid can tackle and he knows where to be all the time. I think that and just his raw talent and his ability to play a couple of different positions is what makes him so attractive to so many teams.”

PSN: What sort of guidance are you going to give him when he comes to you for advice on his decision?

TJ Plack: “We haven’t touched about it much because all of this is happening so fast and the offers just keep coming and coming. This is going to be an everchanging process for him. I know that the family is setting up some visits because they would like to take a look at some of these schools that maybe they don’t know a lot about. Being from Western Pennsylvania, we’ve all been to Pitt and Penn State’s campuses, there’s nothing wrong with them but how many times has he been to Oklahoma’s campus or to Boston College or to Notre Dame? I think he’s going to take his time and visit as many as he can and will weigh everything, academics being high up there. He is a family guy, maybe he’ll want to play a little bit closer to home. I just know that he’ll have all his ducks in order and he’ll make an educated decision on what’s best for him for both football and academics.”

PSN: How do you see Donovan handling this process and is it something he’s going to enjoy or will all this attention and pressure impact him? Is this going to be a hard decision for him to make?

TJ Plack: “He’s hearing from over 40 schools so obviously it’s going to be a hard decision. The one thing that I can tell you is that he is enjoying the process. He’s genuinely enjoying meeting all these people, talking to them, learning about the schools. He’s very inquisitive. He’s a great communicator and is able to talk with these coaches on the phone or via Twitter. He really wants to learn as much as he can about each institution, more about their program and more about what they do defensively. I really think he’s treating this like a business decision and wants to make the right choice. I know he has good people in his corner and his parents, who I know very well and who are great, are helping him out a lot. I don’t think he’s been weighed down by this at all. He’s been able to juggle this with his wrestling season that’s going on and once that season is over with, he’ll have more time to really think through this. When it comes down to his final five schools, I know that will be a hard decision for him and it would be hard for anyone. But in the end, he’ll make one that he’s delighted to make and one that will make him and his family happy.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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