By Elton Hayes
CHICAGO — Big Ten Network president Francois McGillicuddy yesterday announced Matt Millen will return to the network’s broadcast booth this fall.
Millen was diagnosed with amyloidosis and took medical leave last October from his position as a TV analyst for the Big Ten Network. He underwent a successful heart transplant surgery last December.
“In what is probably the best news of the day, we’re extremely thankful to welcome Matt Millen back to the broadcast booth this fall,” McGillicuddy said.
Millen called Penn State’s Blue-White game in April, marking his first appearance in the booth since he left.
“In typical Matt fashion, his recovery has been ahead of schedule, and he’ll be ready to join his partner, Kevin Kugler, in the booth for Week 1,” McGillicuddy said. “He was able to join us for the Penn State spring game in April, and I can’t tell you how thrilled our entire team was to see him back on his feet and talking football.”
Millen was an All-American defensive lineman at Penn State before being selected by the Oakland Raiders in the second round of the NFL draft with the 43rd pick. Millen won four Super Bowls during his 12-year professional career.
Penn State junior defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos garnered recognition as a preseason Big Ten selection ahead of the 49th annual Big Ten Media Days. The honor is the second this week for Gross-Matos, who on Monday landed on the Bednarik Award’s watch list.
Gross-Matos started in 13 games last season and finished with 54 total tackles, including 20 tackles for a loss. He recorded eight sacks and ended the season No. 12 nationally in tackles for losses per game.
Below is the list of this year’s 10 Big Ten preseason honorees:
Big Ten East
Joe Bachie, Sr., LB, Michigan State
Kenny Willekes, Sr., DE, Michigan State
J.K. Dobbins, Jr., RB, Ohio State
Chase Young, Jr., DE, Ohio State
Yetur Gross-Matos, Jr., DE, Penn State
Big Ten West
A.J. Epenesa, Jr., DE, Iowa
Adrian Martinez, So., QB, Nebraska
Paddy Fisher, Jr., LB, Northwestern
Rondale Moore, So., WR, Purdue
Jonathan Taylor, Jr., RB, Wisconsin
Penn State’s KJ Hamler also collected his second preseason accolade this week when he was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list. The Biletnikoff Award is given to the nation’s top wide receiver at the end of the season.
As a redshirt freshman last year, Hamler set a school freshman record after tallying 1,417 all-purpose yards. He pulled 42 receptions for 754 yards and five touchdowns last season.
Ohio State’s Ryan Day and Maryland’s Mike Locksley made their Big Ten Media Days appearances yesterday.
Day replaces Urban Meyer, and while he may be new in the full-time role, he said he’s seen enough of Penn State in recent history to know how intense games against the schools have been. Day served on Meyer’s coaching staff since 2017 as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.
“First off, they have a great program,” Day said. “They’re coached really, really well. On defense, Brent Pry does an unbelievable job of keeping everything in front of them — they’re tough. And their offense, they’re pretty creative in how they do things. I think when you have a well-coached team, and when you recruit really, really well, it’s going to be hard to beat them.”
“Those have been two of the most memorable games I’ve coached in. They were wild games that went all the way to the fourth quarter, and the year before I got there, I think we lost on the road there. Those are just Big Ten battles against a really good, well-coached team that has heart,” he said.
Locksley inherits an embattled Maryland program still reeling from the death of former offensive lineman Jordan McNair.
McNair suffered a heat stroke following a 2018 practice and died 15 days later. Maryland separated from then-head coach D.J. Durkin, in part, due to the incident.
For Locksley, who arrives at Maryland after serving on Alabama’s staff for three seasons, inheriting a program he cheered for as a youngster is still surreal.
“Anyone who knows me knows from the time I got into this business 27 years ago, the Maryland football job was the job I coveted,” Locksley said. “I’ve said this before, and I’m going to keep saying it: This is a dream come true for my family and I am able to come home and coach the university that I grew up rooting for as a kid.”
James Franklin will take the podium at Big Ten media days this morning. Penn State seniors Cam Brown, Blake Gillikin and John Reid will also attend media days as Penn State’s student representatives.