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From walk-on to superstar, Dax Milne left his mark on BYU football

Finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy, Milne’s performance as a junior was sensational

Dax Milne receives the ball from quarterback Zach Wilson as BYU plays Houston at TDECU Stadium in Houston on Oct. 16, 2020.
Jaren Wilkey, BYU

Dax Milne may be one of the best feel-good college football stories of 2020.

Milne, who walked on at BYU out of Bingham High, is a finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy, which will be announced Monday. It is an award given to the top college football player who started their career as a walk-on.

Milne’s symbiotic relationship with best friend Zach Wilson this past season exploded into a highlight film making production. Comeback routes, quick slants, arrow stop-and-goes, post streaks, quick outs, breakaway high point catches for TDs, and tiptoeing down the sidelines for scores. All of them were part of Milne’s repertoire to put in the vault for all time.

Milne, a junior, announced this past week he would put his name in the NFL draft after receiving an evaluation from NFL scouts. He is one of four college receivers with a grade of over 90 this season according to PPFCollege.com.

A walk-on star junior who climbed up the school’s list of best receivers on a possible NFL roster?

That’s the stuff dreams are made of.

Milne’s bid for the Burlsworth Trophy put him as one of three finalists. The other two are seniors Grant Morgan, a linebacker at Arkansas, and Pittsburgh center Jimmy Morrissey.

Milne’s career-best game came at Houston when he caught passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns. In 2020, he had six games of 100 yards receiving.

The person who will miss him most on the field is his position coach Fesi Sitake, who has helped mold Milne’s remarkable route-running talent into a bonafide game-breaker. It was Sitake who first recognized how good Wilson was while recruiting for Weber State and gave him his first offer. He also offered Milne to come to Ogden, knowing his parents and siblings, believing in him and Wilson. In Milne’s development and impact with Wilson, folks have seen the value of Sitake’s talent evaluation in 2016 through 2018.

To have those two pieces leave early, just when they were cooking on the front burner?

Sitake has nothing but good wishes for Milne and whatever fortune comes his way at the next level.

“Dax has had an incredible journey here at BYU,” said Sitake. “I’m so proud of the young man that he has become. He has fought through a lot in his time here. He came in as a freshman with a chip on his shoulder, anxious to prove to everyone, but most importantly himself, that he could become a BYU great. It didn’t come easy. Many know about his walk-on story. Many know about his mom’s battle with cancer. I learned so much watching Dax pursue greatness, despite the obstacles around him.

“I am going to miss Dax and I know BYU football will miss him, but I’m sure I speak for us all when I say I’m more excited to watch him chase his dreams,” he continued. “With his early declaration to the NFL, he’s betting on himself, just like he did as a freshman out of high school coming to BYU. I am fully supportive of Dax and his decision because he’s doing what he feels is best for him, after agonizing over the decision for so long. I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to get to know him and his amazing family. I will continue to be a Dax Milne fan as he enters this new chapter in his life.”

Milne’s junior season receiving yards (70 catches for 1,188 yards) ranks among the top five in BYU history behind Austin Collie (1,538), Cody Hoffman (1,248), Reno Mahe (1,211) and Andy Boyce (1,241). Those are players whose careers span three decades.

Sitake said Milne came in as a preferred walk-on and did nothing but work. Milne worked so hard Sitake said it became a “humbling experience” for him as a coach and “one of the greatest pleasures” he has derived from coaching.

“He’s an incredible leader and one of the reasons we were as successful as we are as a team. He pours his heart and soul into everything and you can see that if there’s a purpose behind it. I hope I can try to keep finding guys like him because he is a true difference-maker because of the kind of leader he has on the field and character he has.”

Former Cougar and top-ranked Texas high school receiver Ross Apo owns and operates MILE-WR Receiver Training.

Asked to break down Milne’s mechanics, Apo offered, “Dax does a great job of setting defenders up at the line of scrimmage. Recognizing the coverage and running his route accordingly seemed to help him get open a lot this past season. Dax plays with his eyes up and never gives any signals out to the defense that he’s going to cut/break.

“Dax displays strong hands almost every game by snatching the ball away from defenders.”

Collie remains one of the most consistent pass-catchers to ever play for BYU. His chemistry with Max Hall was legendary.

In Provo, the closest thing to compare with that Hall/Collie since Riley Nelson/Cody Hoffman and Ty Detmer/Andy Boyce, may just be Wilson to Milne.

He will also be known for the catch that came up one yard short against Coastal Carolina that would have preserved an undefeated season in 2020.

Regardless of how you mark it, Milne’s impact in 2020 on BYU football was massive.