PROVO — Is there a better story in BYU football than Dax Milne?
The Bingham High product went from walk-on to starter to 1,000-yard receiver — in just three years — and caps his collegiate career as an NFL draft pick.
Milne was selected in the seventh round Saturday, when the Washington Football Team used the penultimate selection (No. 258 overall) on the breakout receiver. The Cougars' five draft picks in 2021 are the most in program history since 2002.
Milne follows in the footsteps of his father Darren, who played baseball at BYU before departing early for a professional career in the Detroit Tigers' organization. Darren Milne never made it past Triple-A ball, but his son — who bet on himself by accepting a walk-on spot at BYU instead of a handful of FCS offers in high school — now has a shot at the highest level of football in the world.
For most players who heard their name called Saturday, it's a life-altering shot. Ditto for Milne.
"It is pretty cool, it really is. It's an opportunity to impact a young man's future," Washington coach Ron Rivera said. "For some of them, it's the opportunity to fulfill a dream.
"When I was interviewing some of these guys, I always ask them what's next. It's not just about fulfilling a dream, but also staying here. I hope they have a plan."
The calls that changed it all— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) May 2, 2021
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Milne departs BYU as one of the fastest rising players in the Cougars' modern era. A former walk-on from South Jordan, Milne played in 10 games as a freshman in 2018 and steadily climbed the depth chart.
He earned a scholarship as a sophomore, then rose to become Zach Wilson's favorite target in 2020, amassing 1,188 yards and eight touchdowns. And that's a "character" trait Rivera spoke of trying to add to his culture in Washington.
"Dax is a guy who you talk about at slot receiver," the Super Bowl XX champion and two-time NFL coach of the year said. "We won't know until we start playing for real in September, but there's a lot to like about these guys.
"It's about cultural fit as much as football fit. That was one thing we asked each of these guys individually. It's important; you don't want to try to force anything."
Milne will report to rookie mini-camp in two weeks, followed by offseason workouts with teammates through the middle of June. There, he'll be ingrained in the culture of the program. Talent can be improved and upgraded, but culture and character was the foundation of Rivera's draft class, he said.
"You don't want to take a guy who has tremendous talent, but his character is in question," Rivera said. "At some point, you're going to have to answer to it. It's important, and we don't want to be in that position.
"Some people make mistakes, but when it becomes a problem, you've got to reassess what your core values are. I don't want to do that; I want to make sure we do it right from the beginning."
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound wide out is the 17th BYU receiver to break the 1,000-yard mark in a single season. His 639 yards through the first six games of the 2020 season ranks among the top-three in program history, joining Austin Collie in 2008 and Eric Drage in 1992.
"I've believed in that guy since day one," Wilson said of Milne, a former chief rival growing up in the south end of the Salt Lake Valley. "I've always known that he was going to be a big-time player for us. I'm so happy for him in this moment."
That helped push Milne to declare early for the draft, and the junior Burlsworth Trophy finalist followed his QB1 into the draft after just three years in Provo, joining what Washington general manager Martin Mayhew described as an all-important draft class, in many ways.
"We felt like this draft was going to be important. We really had to focus on the football character of these young men, as well as their physical talents," Mayhew said. "There's a reason why these guys aren't going early, and each situation is a little bit different. But we certainly feel like all the guys we took have an outstanding opportunity with us, to make our team and to contribute to our football team."