When the Raiders' Matt Millen was a senior at Whitehall (Pa.) High, the Cowboys' Randy White tried to recruit him for the University of Maryland. They got into a fight.
"I guess you're not going to Maryland now," White said.
At one spring-practice scrimmage at Penn State, Millen got into so many fights that Joe Paterno sent him to the sidelines.
"I'm not standing on the sidelines for anyone," Millen told him and walked out of the stadium—in full uniform.
Millen has gotten into fights with opponents he liked (the Chargers' Kellen Winslow, the Redskins' Otis Wonsley) and teammates he didn't (John Matuszak, for one). When Sam Boghosian, the Raiders' offensive line coach, wanted to pick up the intensity level at the Wednesday practice before the last Super Bowl, he thought a fight might do it. Naturally, he chose Millen to start it.
Millen has always had a low boiling point, and he's not afraid to let people around him know how he feels. At a practice before the Big 33, the Pennsylvania-Ohio all-star high school football game, a coach threw a blocking dummy at Millen and told him to hold it. Millen threw it back at him, He wound up captaining that team.
He has been cursed at by officials and by teammates. Jack Reynolds, the 49er linebacker, once got so upset at Millen that he shot him a raspberry on the field. Last winter during L.A.'s championship game with Seattle, Millen was screaming so loudly on the sidelines that one of the Raiders' assistant coaches made him a $100 bet just to get him to shut up.
From his inside-linebacker position, Millen surveys the world of NFL football in an ever-mounting rage. His enemies are the blockers who hold him and the ones who don't, the runners who dodge him and the ones who take him straight on, teammates who screw up, coaches who won't give him enough playing time and, of course, officials. He won't go for the knees and he won't hit a guy whose back is turned, but those are about the only things he won't do on the field. His coach at Whitehall High, Andy Melosky, says Millen's play was "fanatical—like the Japanese pilots in World War II." Al Davis calls him "my policeman," and the Raiders wouldn't trade him for any other inside backer in football.
"In our scheme, for what we want him to do, he's perfect," says Charlie Sumner, the Raiders' defensive coach.
And what exactly is it that they want him to do? Stuff the power running inside; take on the guards—those 280-pounders who come out of the weight room, assembly-line style—straight up; clamp on the tight end coming across; dominate; intimidate; terrorize. Millen stands 6'1¾" and plays at 250 to 260 pounds, 25 more than your average inside backer. Once he was as high as 284. Davis has always been enamored of the oversized player, the disruptive guy with the potential to wreak havoc. The 6'8" Matuszak; 6'9" Charles Philyaw; 6'7" Ted Hendricks, the tallest linebacker in history; 7-foot defensive tackle Richard Sligh, the tallest anything—they all have worn the silver and black.