Cale Millen heard his father’s footsteps.
As a kid growing up in Snoqualmie, Wash., less than 30 miles southeast of Husky Stadium, Millen spent his share of down time playing the vintage EA Sports “NCAA Football” video games.
Even though Hugh Millen was a standout quarterback at Washington before an 11-year NFL career, his oldest son’s team of choice was always the Ducks.
“I wasn’t really hot on the Huskies ever,” Cale Millen said. “I played the NCAA Football games and I’d actually play as Oregon. And if my dad was coming down in the basement, I’d always turn the TV off real quick because I didn’t want him to see me playing as Oregon.”
Now Cale Millen will follow his father’s footsteps as a Pac-12 quarterback. But he will blaze his own Oregon trail instead of staying home to play for Washington, which never made the late-blooming and still growing legacy recruit a scholarship offer.
Hugh Millen’s Husky heart will belong to the Ducks for at least the next four or five seasons. His younger son, Clay, is a 2021 quarterback prospect who already has an offer from Oregon.
“It’s been a little bit surreal on some levels,” Hugh Millen said. “I was a late developer. I grew two inches after my 17th birthday. I actually walked on to Washington knowing I would have to beat out Chris Chandler. I don’t know if they had five stars back then, but he was a Parade All-American, so by definition a top-five quarterback in the country. ...
“I just think the physical maturation is a big part of this. What really matters is not age 14. What really matters is how is he relative to his peers at age 20 or 21.”
Cale Millen still isn’t shaving, but the 6-foot-4, 200-pound high school senior is still growing. During a playoff game this season for Mount Si High, he broke his left wrist and then received some encouraging news from the doctor.
“We got the X-ray, and my growth plates were still open,” Cale Millen said. “They said I’m probably going to be a little under 6-5, so that’s exciting. And I’m just under 6-4 right now. Having that extra inch allows me to put some more weight on my frame, too.”
When Cale Millen was a freshman he was 5-10, 130 pounds. And playing wide receiver.
After that season, Washington coach Chris Petersen made an offer to Dylan Morris, a 6-1, 192-pound quarterback at Graham-Kapowsin High in Graham, Wash.
“I was disappointed after my freshman and sophomore year. After that, I was kind of over it,” Cale Millen said of not being recruited by the Huskies. “It wasn’t a big deal for me. They made their choice about me when I was 130 pounds playing receiver. It’s kind of their loss. I was disappointed in the beginning, but I’m really happy with my choice.
“I think I would choose Oregon 100 out of 100.”
Local prep fans may remember Morris passing for 321 yards and four touchdowns to lead his team to a 51-50 victory at Sheldon High in the 2018 opener, which was televised nationally by ESPNU. The four-star recruit finished his senior season completing 59.2 percent of his passes for 2,559 yards with 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Cale Millen completed 75.9 percent of his passes for 3,807 yards with 51 touchdowns and seven interceptions as a senior. He also rushed for 453 yards and led the state with 4,260 total yards from scrimmage.
The top two quarterbacks from Washington roomed together at the Elite Eleven finals, which featured 24 of the best signal-callers in the 2019 class.
“I don’t talk to him on a daily basis or anything, but when we see each other we’re good buddies,” Cale Millen said of Morris. “He’s a really cool guy. I really like him a lot. … It’s kind of cool, we could be playing each other some day.”
Cale Millen, who shattered a backboard during a dunk contest in high school and was a member of a state-qualifying 4x100-meter relay team, originally committed to Northwestern. Notre Dame, USC, UCLA and Arizona State were also in the mix. Mike Leach made a late pitch offering a chance to stay north of the border at Washington State.
First-year Oregon coach Mario Cristobal and offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo made a convincing argument that Millen was the No. 1 quarterback on their board for the 2019 cycle.
“I felt that I was needed more at Oregon rather than just kind of being another guy filling a spot,” Millen said of his decision. “At other schools it was kind of, ‘Oh, we need a quarterback for the class, let’s take him.’ At Oregon, I felt like it wasn’t just filling a position. It was, ‘We need you here.’
“That instantly grabbed me, that feeling of being needed. Coach Arroyo and coach Cristobal, I connected really well with them. I really like them a lot. Obviously, it’s much closer to home, which is nice. It was just a great pick.”
There were other quarterback recruits in attendance for the Ducks’ spring game, including Sheldon’s Michael Johnson Jr., but once Millen gave his verbal pledge on May 6, the coaching staff backed off their pursuit of the other prospects.
Johnson, whose dad is Cristobal’s wide receivers coach, is expected to leave Eugene for State College, Pa., after signing with Penn State on Wednesday. Millen will enroll at Oregon in January so he can participate in the strength and conditioning program and spring practice.
“It’s definitely tough leaving my buddies and my family,” Millen said. “I’ve got to move on to the next stage of my life … It will be a challenge, but I’ll definitely be able to handle it. It won’t take long to adjust, especially at Oregon. It feels like home anyways.”
Cale Millen remembers his dad working with him on his throwing mechanics as a 4-year-old. Hugh Millen, who works as a radio and television football analyst in Seattle, has been there for his son throughout the journey. They attended Oregon’s dramatic overtime win over Washington this season together.
The Millen boys were in Eugene again over the weekend as Cristobal and his assistants solidified a top-10 class by getting a verbal commitment from Kayvon Thibodeaux, a five-star defensive end who picked the Ducks over Alabama, Florida and Florida State.
They would love for Justin Herbert to put his professional career on hold for a year and return for his senior season with the Ducks.
“I think it would be phenomenal if he were to come back,” Hugh Millen said. “I think it would be great for the whole program, for Oregon, and for everybody associated with the program, including Cale. It would be a great learning experience. That’s just going to come down to Justin’s values and what’s important to him.”
While Hugh wasn’t thrilled about his alma mater locking in its 2019 quarterback three years ago, he is excited about Oregon’s recent history of developing unheralded recruits into potential NFL franchise quarterbacks.
Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and Herbert also only had three stars by their names before arriving on campus.
“I think it’s really good recruiting, obviously,” Cale Millen said. “It’s a lot of hard work just to get onto the field, so just because there’s that history there doesn’t mean anything yet to me. I’ve got to make a name for myself on my own.
“But it’s cool that’s kind of the story being told that way. It’s definitely interesting.”