Michigan quarterback Joe Milton looks like QB1 for Michigan, but it hasn’t always been that way. Milton was No. 3 on the depth chart heading into the 2019 season. Milton had to battle against Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey, both of whom are not on the team now. Milton’s journey in Ann Arbor has included various ways he’s impressed his teammates and coaches, and not all of that has been with his play. Milton’s leadership has been praised of late by Josh Gattis and teammates such as Josh Ross and Giles Jackson.
While Milton’s leadership abilities are now at the forefront due to his higher status in the offense, they’ve been on display for quite some time. During Milton’s first months on campus he made an impression with head coach Jim Harbaugh because of how much he was around Schembechler Hall. “Joe Milton, brand new freshman quarterback, had a heck of a spring too,” Harbaugh said in 2018. “Every time you walk around the office, somebody made the joke that they should get him his own office because he’s trying to watch tape every single day. It’s pretty impressive.”
During Milton’s first year at Michigan, his practice demeanor impressed Harbaugh as well. It happened the first practice Milton ever had at U-M. “He treated the first practice like it was a game,” Harbaugh said. “You could see him over there studying. I mean, he was praying. It was like he was getting ready for a game. I loved it.”
A year later with his game more polished and the confidence that comes along with it, Milton wanted a shot to be the starting quarterback. In late September after a loss to Wisconsin in which McCaffrey suffered a head injury and Shea Patterson was banged up after, Milton made it known he believed he could lead the team. “Joe’s progressing. He came in right away on Monday stressing that he wanted to play, wanted an opportunity,” Gattis said in ‘19. “So that’s what we want from all of our guys, we want all of our guys to feel the sense of urgency that we have on offense, and as a team. If there’s a way for them to contribute, we want them to contribute. I’m excited to see Joe continue to progress and find a way to help this team and this offense.”
Fast-forward to present day. Milton’s a major leader on the team, is serious and locked in according to receiver Giles Jackson. “He’s just more focused, I’d say,” Jackson said. “I could tell, as soon as this offseason, he was like a whole different person – he was more serious, more focused. You could tell he wanted it, he wanted to play and he was more locked in.”
We haven’t seen all Joe Milton has to offer as a leader and quarterback, but these are the glimpses into his character that will have to do for now. Milton’s impressed Harbaugh and Gattis enough to be trusted at the most crucial of positions, and stories like the ones mentioned reflect that trust.