Washington's record brings  Mills name back to forefront

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff

   As a new era begins at the University of Tennessee, the residents of our community are reminded of another great receiver that graced the face of UT football, and that man is Johnny Mills.
   In Tennessee's win over LSU last Saturday, Kelley Washington turned in a stellar performance, racking up 256 yards on 11 receptions. The performance broke the mark previously set by Mills 35 years ago.
   Despite the changing of the guard, Mills is not unhappy to see his record pass by the books.
   "I had a pretty good ride, I'm happy with that," said Mills.
   Looking at this season Mills is happy that Washington is taking great strides. As most fans would agree, UT would have been hard-pressed to beat LSU had it not been for the efforts of number 15.
   "I don't think UT would have won the ballgame unless the record was broken," said Mills "Washington was the offense."
   Looking towards the rest of the season. However, Mills expects to see teams key on the freshman, and prevent him from making as many big plays.
   "The teams in the SEC aren't stupid," said Mills. "They will key on him (Washington). Tennessee needs a young receiver to step up, or they need to look at the tight end."
   To put this record in perspective, though, we must look at how the game has changed as current passing records are being shattered. In 1948 Jim Powell held almost every major receiving record at UT.
   In those days teams averaged perhaps 10 passes per game. In 1966, when Mills had his record-setting season, teams threw somewhere between 20-25 times a game. In today's vertically-minded passing attacks, teams go to the air upwards of 35-40 attempts.
   At this pace most of the major passing and receiving records will fall.
   "Any record involving the passing game will naturally be broken," said Mills.
   As for Washington and his talents, Mr. Mills is quite impressed with the youngster.
   "He has as many skills as I have seen," said Mills. "He is 6-3, 225 and can run a 4.25 40. That is God-given talent that you simply can't coach."
   As for the glory days of the possession receiver, those times are certainly in decline as the face of football continues to evolve.
   Washington can provide that key possession receiving threat, according to Mills.
   "This guy is going to catch the football," Mills remarked. "You need a guy to go over the middle and get the first down. Washington gives (Casey) Clausen that option."
   All in all football has been good to Johnny Mills, and despite his record being broken, there is nothing to feel down about when it comes to the memories.
   "Losing a record that has stood for 35 years has some sadness along with it," said Mills. "Losing it does not diminish what I accomplished at Tennessee and I am comfortable with the contributions I was able to make."
   Perhaps a little dose of that old-school toughness would do the modern day Vols some good. We'll see if Washington can continue to dominate as Tennessee locks horns with Georgia this Saturday.