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Broncos nickel back Ja'Quan McMillian is making a name for himself even if it's being mispronounced

McMillian, who went undrafted out of East Carolina in 2022, this week provided the correct pronunciation of his name as “J-Kwan Mac-Millan.”
Vikings Broncos Football
Posted at 8:53 PM, Nov 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-23 22:55:22-05

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Denver Broncos nickel back Ja'Quan McMillian is making quite a name for himself this season even if it's being mispronounced.

McMillian, who went undrafted out of East Carolina in 2022, this week provided the correct pronunciation of his name as “J-Kwan Mac-Millan.”

His teammates, though, have been calling him “McMillion” ever since Joe Buck pronounced it that way on the “Monday Night Football” broadcast of the Broncos' 24-22 win at Buffalo two weeks ago.

McMillian has played a major role in the Broncos' four-game winning streak during which they have 13 takeaways. At 5-5, they can move above .500 for the first time under coach Sean Payton with a win over Cleveland (7-3) Sunday in Denver.

On the first play at Buffalo, McMillian stripped the ball from Bills running back James Cook for a fumble recovery. That came after he intercepted Patrick Mahomes in the Broncos' 24-9 win over Kansas City that snapped the Broncos' long losing streak to the Chiefs.

Last week, the second-year pro from East Carolina recovered a fumble on the third play of the game and added an interception in the fourth quarter of Denver's 21-20 win over Minnesota.

That gave him four takeaways in the past three games.

“There are certain players, and the ball finds them," Payton said. “He seems to have some of those traits. (I’m) proud of how he’s played and how he’s worked. His enthusiasm is kind of contagious, and I think he’s brought a lot to the defense.”

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McMillian played in just one game his rookie year and was inactive for the opener this season, then played mostly on special teams for the next two games. After the Broncos' 70-point meltdown at Miami in Week 3, he replaced Essang Bassey as the team's primary nickel back and Bassey was waived, then claimed by the Los Angeles Chargers.

The “Sunday Night Football” crew pronounced McMillian's name correctly, but he said he got a kick out of watching the “Monday Night Football” broadcast and didn't mind the broadcast crew's mispronunciation of his last name.

Hearing “McMillion," he said, brought back memories of his late father, Stephan Letae McMillian, who died last December at age 41.

“I kind of like the nickname,’’ McMillian said. “It’s a funny story. My dad used to say it all the time, ‘McMillion,’ when I was growing up. So just hearing them say it on the TV just brought back memories of my dad.”

McMillian said his turnover of Cook that night held special meaning because that day would have been his father's 42nd birthday, “so I'm going to remember that moment forever. So, that's probably my favorite moment.”

McMillian is turning into one of general manager George Paton's better gems. He's versatile, a sure tackler in defending the run and adept at defending the pass.

"I always tell the guys I play like three different positions,’’ McMillian said. “I’m playing cornerback, I’m playing linebacker at times and I’m also at the safety, too.”

And he agreed with Payton's assessment of him as a ball hawk.

“When you're doing stuff right and you're just doing your job, the ball's going to find you," McMillian said. "The football gods are going to bless you.”

If he continues his takeaway tendencies, McMillian might find more people pronouncing his name correctly.

Then again, “McMillion” might prove an apt nickname, too, because he figures to see a seven-figure annual paycheck whenever he signs his next contract.

“All the guys are calling me that in the building now,” he said of “McMillion.” “It’s a nice nickname to have.”

NOTES: S PJ Locke (ankle) returned to practice Thursday after missing last week's game. “It felt pretty good. I feel like I made some strides, especially from last week, from yesterday to today. … It’s just a work in progress. Hopefully I can (play) Sunday, but we’ll see.” If not, the other options include rookie JL Skinner, a sixth-round pick from Boise State who was active for the first time last week, and Delarrin Turner-Yell, a second-year pro from Oklahoma.