• John Macon Gillespie

Mills Loves Being A Viking

As soon as Clark Mills wraps up the regular season of his junior year on the hardwood, he plans to shift his focus back to the gridiron. First stop? The Fortius Project.

The talented signal caller put together a fantastic 2016 campaign that saw him toss 31 touchdowns. So, naturally, he is expected to shine amongst his peers in the camp setting.

Though he also stars for the Vikings in basketball, football is where his heart resides.

“I started playing football in pee wee and there is nothing like Friday night lights,” Mills told SES Mississippi. “You are able to go out there and show what you can do in front of your friends and family. Crunch time, you have to grind it out for the team.”

“The draw to a camp like Fortius is to improve, first and foremost. Then, get seen by colleges.”

Just as he grew up with the game of football, he also grew up with the community that he represents on those Friday nights.

“It means everything,” He said of playing for North Pontotoc. “I’ve grown up as a Viking and have always loved it here.”

“The fans are always behind you. We have a good crowd every game. People are passionate about the sports here, and the players, so that’s what I love.”

The competition amongst his most talented peers at Fortius will be nothing new for Mills. He quarterbacks one of three teams in Pontotoc County that made the playoffs in 2016.

Mills defeated 2A South Pontotoc last season, but fell to 4A Pontotoc high.

“There hasn’t been one dominant team over a long period of time. The competition is always here. It makes each team strive to be their best,” He said.

In addition to his 30-plus scoring tosses in 2016, Mills threw for 2,400 yards and rushed for five touchdowns. He commanded an explosive offense that could grab chunks of yards through the air.

Mills averaged over 18 yards per completion and threw for 221 yards or more in six games. His best game of the season came in a loss to New Albany when he threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns. He threw for four touchdowns in three separate games last season.

“I feel like the key was having Zay(Cullens) in the backfield, because it allowed more open windows and teams to use man coverage,” Mills explained. “Also, we feel like we can throw stuff at people that they haven’t seen every week. Coach (Brian)Sutton puts trust in me, and the way we prepared this year, for each game, helped tremendously.”

Next season Zay Cullens, who led the Vikings in rushing and was an integral piece defensively, will not be playing in blue and orange. He will be playing at the University of Memphis. Replacing what Cullens produced on the ground is one two big things North Pontotoc must do offensively in 2017.

“Next season we need to establish a running game, which opens everything up, and put together consistent drives,” Mills said. “If we can do those two things we have the big-play ability, so I believe we can keep being good on offense.”

Last season Mills rushed for 265 yards, and it is conceivable that he could help the rushing attack. This offseason he is seeking an improvement in the running game and speeding up his release.

“I’m not the fastest person, but I am effective,” He stated. “Last offseason I worked on speed and quickness, and I was able to be much more of a factor this year. I plan to do the same and become an even bigger threat.”

Speaking of improvement, that is the goal for 2017 after the Vikings made it to the third round of the playoffs last fall. Mills says he won’t be the only player who makes an improvement this offseason. In fact, there are two guys he expects to be crucial pieces this coming season.

“Corley Hooper came up big on the defense and helped offensively. Brenden Fields has speed and can take the top off. Those are two special players,” Mills said.

As for Mills, he plans to urge his teammates to work out, learn the playbook and get work in on their own time this offseason. That’s just his part of the process of the Vikings taking a step in 2017.

“To get there all of us have to be on the same page and that takes work,” He said. “We need to know what each other are going to do before we do it. Swarming to the ball on defense because lost some key people this year. We will come together.”

Don’t be surprised when Mills shows up the Fortius Project and he reminds you of a few guys on the next level and in the NFL.

“I definitely like to watch Russell Wilson(Seattle Seahawks), Drew Brees(New Orleans Saints), Shea Patterson(Ole Miss) and other small guys with big arms,” Mill explained.

**Photo by NE Mississippi Daily Journal.

#JohnLukeMcCord #NorthPontotoc

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