Ohio State’s Raekwon McMillan, Jalyn Holmes Formed a Lifelong Friendship On a Recruiting Visit — at Clemson

By Tim Shoemaker on December 29, 2016 at 8:35 am
Ohio State's Raekwon McMillan and Jalyn Holmes celebrate the national title in 2014.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Raekwon McMillan and Jalyn Holmes never intended for the conversation to go the way it did.

Yet there they were, a pair of highly-coveted uncommitted high school football prospects, sitting by themselves inside the Clemson practice facility in the summer of 2013 talking about anything and everything that comes with major college football recruiting.

Finally, after a bit of back-and-forth discussion, it hit both of them.

“We were talking, man, and we were talking about the things that weighed out and what was better and what was not,” McMillan recalled Wednesday. “We came to the conclusion like, ‘We’re up here talking about Ohio State when we were visiting Clemson.’”

And so began a friendship that figures to go on for a lifetime.

McMillan, a five-star linebacker prospect from Hinesville, Georgia, was one of the most sought after recruits in the 2014 class. He had offers from nearly every school in the country, but three stood out: Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.

Holmes was a four-star defensive end prospect from Norfolk, Virginia, who wasn’t exactly as highly-touted as McMillan but had a rather impressive offer list nonetheless. Ohio State, Clemson and Florida State were all after him.

“We came to the conclusion like, ‘We’re up here talking about Ohio State when we were visiting Clemson.’”– Raekwon McMillan

The discussion at Clemson on that warm summer day allowed them to discover that each was high on both the Tigers and Buckeyes, but once they found themselves talking about Ohio State while not in Columbus, that was pretty much all either needed to know.

“It was kind of weird that we were at Clemson talking about Ohio State,” McMillan said. “We were up in the indoor facility, at the top, just us two sitting to ourselves and we just told the coaches we were going to relax and chill up there. I asked [Holmes] his top two schools and the two we had in common were Clemson and Ohio State.”

“We talked about Ohio State, Urban Meyer and what we could do if we were at Ohio State, what we could do at Clemson and just comparing the two,” Holmes added. “I was actually talking to [Ohio State assistant coach Zach] Smith the whole time I was there.”

The Buckeyes wound up getting both and they’re certainly reaping the benefits now as McMillan and Holmes are each integral parts of a team preparing to face — you guessed it — Clemson on Dec. 31 in the Fiesta Bowl.

A consensus second-team All-American, McMillan led Ohio State this season with 87 tackles from his middle linebacker position. He’s the captain and leader of the Buckeyes’ defense and a potential first round pick in next year’s NFL Draft should he opt to forgo his final season of eligibility.

Meanwhile, Holmes burst onto the scene this year as a crucial part of Ohio State’s defensive line despite the fact he doesn’t start. Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis are the Buckeyes’ starting defensive ends, but Holmes gets plenty of snaps and is second on the team with 8.5 tackles for loss and has two sacks.

The two have been close away from the field, too, as they were roommates during their freshman year and have continued to build a friendship throughout their first three years together in Columbus.

“He’s definitely going to be one of the best men in my wedding,” McMillan said. “Whenever I have it.”

“We actually argue a lot,” Holmes jokingly added. “But we did a lot of things together, good and bad and we’ve had a lot of good times together.”

If Ohio State is going to beat Clemson and earn the right to play for a second national championship in three years, the Buckeyes’ defense is going to need to make big plays and contain a potent Tigers offense orchestrated by quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Holmes and McMillan will each certainly have their chance to make an impact.

But if not for that conversation three-plus years ago at Clemson’s practice facility, perhaps Holmes and McMillan are on the other side of this one. Perhaps this friendship never gets formed.

Ohio State is certainly thankful Holmes and McMillan made that trip.

“Ever since there,” McMillan said, “it’s kind of taken off.”

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