Former Notre Dame DL Excited For Future Notre Dame DL

May 6, 2019

Rylie Mills‍ just made the same decision that Kerry Neal made over a decade ago.

As Mills’ trainer, Neal certainly offered his opinions on the positives of choosing Notre Dame, but is careful to avoid influencing any of the kids he works with at EFT Football Academy.

“I tell all of my kids, ‘It’s not my decision,’” says Neal, who played defensive end for the Irish 2007-2010. “I really try to remove myself from all of that because I want the kids to make their decision.

“I give them the same advice my mom gave me, ‘Whatever decision you make is going to affect you more than anybody else. You’re the one who is going to have to get up every morning and go to class and take care of football. The 5 a.m. workout, you’re going to do that at every university. You have to perform at the end of the day, so you better make sure you’re happy with your decision.’”

But now that Mills has made that same choice, committing to Notre Dame on Monday night, Neal is convinced the Illinois defensive end made one he won’t regret.

“I’m the biggest Notre Dame fan ever,” says Neal. “I’m a proud alum. We had a conversation early in the process and I just told him all of the great things Notre Dame meant to me and all of the great things Notre Dame did for me. As a player and an alum, it’s something I’m proud of.

“It’s a family at Notre Dame. You’re always welcome back. Whenever I come back on campus, I feel warmth, I feel welcome. There aren’t too many places like that. It’s Notre Dame. I tell everybody, Notre Dame speaks for itself. You don’t need me to tell you how great Notre Dame is, you just look at TV every Saturday. There aren’t too many college football teams that have their own network.”

Mills isn’t the first player Neal has trained who selected Notre Dame, current Irish defensive back Houston Griffith and current wideout Micah Jones worked at EFT before heading to South Bend.

Neal has also worked with countless former Notre Dame players, including some former teammates like Robert Hughes, Darius Fleming, Michael Floyd, Louis Nix, Robert Blanton, CJ Prosise, Matthias Farley, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Ben Koyack, DaVaris Daniels, Scott Daly, Chris Brown, Nyles Morgan and Nic Weishar.

“Again, It’s family. It’s so much more than just football and X’s and O’s,” says Neal. “You can’t go wrong when you commit to Notre Dame.”

Neal is equally convinced that the Irish couldn’t go wrong with Mills, who picked Notre Dame over offers from schools like Ohio State, Wisconsin, Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon and Penn State among many others.

“Rylie is probably one of my favorite kids,” says Neal. “I’ve been working with him for almost three years now.

“He’s gifted. God blessed the kid with a lot of size, a lot of talent. There aren’t too many big guys on this earth who can move as well as he can move and be as strong as he is, especially at 16 years old, which is ridiculous.”

Neal describes the 6-foot-5, 275-pounder from Lake Forest High School as “a workhorse.”

“Over the last few months, he’s really been so focused on improving his skills,” Neal continues. “He doesn’t want to be the best kid in Illinois, he wants to be one of the best players in the country. He’s put the work in.”

Mills works with Neal about two to three times each week.

“We really work on his skills, his football skills,” says Neal. “We work on a lot of pass rush stuff, hands, explosive hands, teaching him to how flip his hips. We’re trying to make him a well-rounded player for every position on the d-line.

“Our goal is just to become better in every aspect. When we talked right after the season, it was about becoming a better athlete, faster, more explosive. Hands were our biggest thing, just teaching him how to use his hands and stay busy with his hands. Most kids know how to use their hands, but they just shoot them one time and that’s it. We’re trying to keep your hands active and alive when you’re rushing, that’s the biggest thing we’ve been working on this offseason.”

Neal believes Mills’ size and athleticism will allow the Irish some flexibility in terms of where they use him.

“With his frame, he could easily play the three and easily play the five,” says Neal. “It really depends what the strength coach does with him in the offseason and how his body responds to it. Lake Forest does a great job with the lifting program at school as you can tell. It all depends over the course of the summer and if they’re going to bulk him up or slim him down. Whatever they decide.”

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