Greenback duo staying together

Greenback School’s Josiah Millsaps, left, and Hazen Carleton signed letters of intent Feb. 5 to play football at Maryville College.

Two Greenback School seniors will stay together at the next level after Hazen Carleton and Josiah Millsaps signed letters of intent to play football at Maryville College.

“It was great, it kind of caught me off guard a little bit,” Carleton said. “You’re a little nervous at first but once you start going, it was great, especially being able to do it with somebody that you’ve been playing with for a little while and knowing that you’re both going to the same school, it felt pretty good.”

“It was a real blessing for me because me and Hazen, we played together and I think it’s going to be a real cool experience where you play in high school together and you get a chance to play in college together,” Millsaps added.

Carleton joined the team as an eighth-grader and gradually developed into a reliable defensive player for the Cherokees.

“He learned really early in his career about toughness and to compete because he’d go against Josh Silvey as an eighth-grader, and I’m sure he didn’t enjoy that, but I think it made him more of the player he is today,” Greg Ryan, Greenback head football coach, said. “Things behind the scenes that you don’t know about Hazen is he really worked hard to become just a better overall athlete, he’d work out in the summer with the football team and he’d also do crossfit and other things on his own to be just a better athlete.”

Carleton played a key role in helping the Cherokees clinch the 2017 Class 1A state championship and was a factor in helping the defense consistently achieve a 1A top-five ranking the last four years.

“It’s been great just knowing that I was able to be a part of all our state championships, showing up there and being a part of winning one of them and just going all the way through with a tight-knit community, family based community,” Carleton said. “It was really nice to be able to play high school football there, especially it being my senior year and being able to sign, it really helped.”

The coaching staff challenged Carleton his senior season by switching him between the defensive line and linebacker.

He capped off the 2019 season with 50.5 tackles, 61 assists, 3.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss and was named to the All-Region 2-1A first team.

“His junior year, he said he had a strong desire to get the opportunity to play college football if there was any chance, so he’s been playing defensive tackle for us,” Ryan said. “He knew and I knew that the opportunity at defensive tackle wasn’t going to be there, so we talked about it and moved him to linebacker because that was more of his body size for the opportunity to play college football, and his speed for that matter. I think we found that linebacker wasn’t the best fit for him, so we moved him to defensive end. I think he found a home that really helped our football team and can really help Maryville College as well.”

Carleton is expected to play defensive end for the Scots and will continue training in the offseason.

“I’m just going back to the basics, just getting flexible, more stretching, being better with footwork,” he said. “Of course, being that I’m so close to Maryville, I’ve already talked to the coaches and I’m going to go to their summer workouts just to where I can get familiar with the team and how they do things.”

Millsaps transferred to Greenback from Tellico Plains High School over the summer and was a 2018 Tennessee Sports Writers Association All-State selection at linebacker while playing for the Bears.

Moving to Greenback proved a tough, rewarding decision.

“As far as being around people and making friends and school-wise, it was actually pretty easy because I knew a lot of people from Greenback before I moved, so it was kind of easy on that part,” Millsaps said. “As far as getting into a new program, we do things a lot different than we did at Tellico. It took me a little bit, but I adjusted. It took me a little bit longer than I liked, but I eventually got there and adjusted well.”

Millsaps credits Ryan for his success and complimented him as “a football genius.”

“He really is, he’s such a good coach,” Millsaps said. “I mean, Coach (John) Mullinax is a great coach and he definitely was ... Coach Ryan and him are both great coaches, but they have different styles. Coach Ryan was a really, really good coach, and he’s a great coach. He’s a genius on the football field, and he makes great decisions.”

Millsaps started at middle linebacker for the Cherokees but also saw time at fullback. He finished his senior season with 34.5 tackles, 41 assists, five tackles for loss, two interceptions and a sack.

He was also named to the All-Region 2-1A first team despite missing several games down the stretch with a hand injury from a car wreck.

“He comes to us as a senior, I think I would like to coach Josiah for more than one year,” Ryan said. “I think Josiah was very successful at Tellico playing linebacker and made a lot of plays, made a lot of tackles, made All-State as a junior ... when he transfers to us, it’s a totally new system and some of the things we asked him to do, it took some time to get comfortable within that system. Once he did, he had a very strong season after a couple of games of getting used to doing what we asked him to do. I can’t say enough about Josiah, his character — he’s a really great kid.”

Millsaps will likely play linebacker at Maryville College but is willing to play any position to help the team.

“I’m just going to do whatever Coach (Shaun Hayes, Maryville College head football coach) needs me to do when I get there, but right now as far as I know, that’s where I’m expected to play and that’s where I’m going to play,” he said. “But anything he needs me to do, I will.”