Big Red Legends: Ernie McMillan

Ernie McMillan grew up in Chicago where he lettered in baseball, basketball and football at DuSable High School. He attended the University of Illinois, but didn’t play much his first three years.

“I had wanted to go to Arizona or some other college far away, but my mother didn’t want me to be too far from home,” Ernie said in a Post Dispatch story in 1969.

McMillan was used primarily as a blocking tight end at Illinois and caught only 7 passes in his college career, but the Cards drafted him in the 13th round of the 1961 NFL draft. The 6-foot-6 McMillan reported to camp at 283 pounds and requested to switch to tackle just a few days into practice. The Big Red agreed and it was a move neither would regret.

Ernie McMillan was a four time Pro Bowl tackle for the Big Red from 1961-1974.

“When Billy Bidwill came to Illinois to sign me, I told him I didn’t think I could make the team,” McMillan told attendees at the annual kickoff luncheon in 1961. “I taught school for six months and I realized there had to be a better and easier way to make a living, so here I am.”

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