FORT COLLINS –– When head coach Jay Norvell, offensive coordinator Matt Mumme and fellow former Nevada staffers packed their bags in preparation to depart Reno, their destination didn’t mean much to Clay Millen.
All the young quarterback needed to know was whether his coaches were heading to another collegiate program. And one with room on the roster for a gunslinger.
Once Norvell and company landed in Fort Collins, the rest was history. Still, for the redshirt freshman, it practically could have been anywhere. Wherever Norvell and Mumme went, Millen intended to follow.
“When I chose Nevada, the choice was to play mainly for the coaches,” Millen described on Tuesday. “It was more of a coaches choice than anything. I wanted to go play in that system. So as soon as they came here, the decision was easy. It was the same choice as high school, and I felt even closer to the coaches, just being there for a semester.”
As CSU fans are already aware, Millen –– currently taking first-team reps during spring camp –– didn’t waste any time in making that easy selection.
Athletic director Joe Parker poached Norvell from Nevada on Dec. 6 as Mumme then unofficially joined the green and gold two days later.
Millen left Nevada on Dec. 10 en route to committing to CSU just four days after –– with a quick visit to Fort Collins alongside several Wolf Pack-turned-Rams.
“I flew down here on a trip with (wideout) Tory (Horton) and (tight end) Pete (Montini). It was awesome. But I already knew I was coming. I knew there wasn’t any way I’d go anywhere else.”
As Millen described, the decision to become a Ram represented a virtual no-brainer in light of his priority of sticking with the coaches who recruited him out of Snoqualmie, Wash.
Still, of all possible places he could have wound up in, it’s worth noting how Fort Collins boasts particular bonus points for Millen.
“(Colorado) was one of my final choices (out of high school) because I have so much family here,” Millen said. “So it’s great having a whole support system here.”
Speaking of Millen’s offers as a 2021 recruit, the once-touted prospect possessed quite a few. Specifically, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound signal-caller fell in love with the Wolf Pack’s high-powered offense when selecting Nevada over seven additional scholarships –– including Oregon and Arizona.
Ranked as 247Sports’ No. 24 quarterback nationally, the four-star talent amassed 3,841 passing yards and 40 touchdowns while hurling only one interception over 15 games as a prep upperclassman.
Thus, Millen commenced his collegiate career last year with lofty expectations from every which way. Though he eventually redshirted his true freshman stint in 2021, Millen kept those expectations intact via progressing admirably inside Nevada’s system while utilizing crucial mentorship from Wolf Pack starter Carson Strong.
“I went in and learned from one of the best quarterbacks in the entire country,” Millen said. “It was awesome to be in there every single day at practice. Just watching him, learning from him, sitting in meetings with him and picking his thoughts. Just trying to do everything that he does because he’s so great at it. He was kind of like a big brother to me.”
For good reason, Millen focused on following Strong’s footsteps as precisely as possible while witnessing Nevada’s starting quarterback win his second consecutive Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year award in 2021.
In Reno, Norvell and Mumme hoped to carve Millen into their next juggernaut quarterback.
Though the destination has changed, the objective has not.
“I don’t look at Clay Millen and say you’re a redshirt freshman,” Mumme said last Thursday. “I look at him as a guy that has experience and I have big expectations for him.”
Time will tell whether or not Millen can lead an offense to a prosperous degree similar to Strong. Nevertheless, CSU certainly sees the potential of doing so within Millen as the Rams’ current QB1 continues coasting through spring’s initial stages.
Already knowing the offensive scheme enabled Millen to hit the ground running when spring camp started last Tuesday. And he’s surely capitalized on that head start.
“Getting a chance to learn the offense last semester has helped,” Millen said. “Coming here, it’s honestly been as smooth a transition as I could possibly imagine.”
“He’s dialed in out there, taking what he learned from Carson and Mumme,” Horton added. “It’s great to see him picking up real quick.”
So what is it about the Air Raid that has magnetized Millen since dominating as a high school hurler? Well, the playbook’s simplicity makes mastering concepts feel like a walk in the park.
Plus, the scheme’s consistent output places plenty of validity beside the Air Raid’s name –– Nevada led the Mountain West in scoring (35.7 points per game) and passing (347 yards per game) last season.
“Our offense is just repetition, and it’s super simple,” Millen said. “But it puts up big numbers and is really explosive. You’d rather be good at 10 plays than be mediocre at 50 plays. So that’s our mindset. There’s just so little plays that once you get used to it, it’s easy money.”