‘This is very personal for me’: Former DSU star Milstead new Hornet football coach

Rod Milstead

DOVER — When Rod Milstead was a freshman at Delaware State University, his dorm room was in Conwell Hall.

Now that is where Milstead’s office will be.

Delaware State officially announced Milstead, 48, as its new head football coach on Tuesday afternoon. Milstead is one of the most decorated Hornet alums and played eight seasons in the NFL.

Milstead’s hiring ends a nearly three-month search after DSU decided on Nov. 20 to not renew the contract of coach Kenny Carter, who went 3-30 across three seasons.

Milstead comes to Delaware State from La Plata High in Maryland, where he has been the head coach since 2015. He will move into the football coaching offices on the campus of DSU — located in Conwell Hall.

“This is very personal for me,” Milstead said. “Rejuvenating the football program and making winners of our student-athletes in the classroom, in the community, as well as on the field, is my top priority.”

Milstead is a member of the Delaware State Athletics Hall of Fame after a storied playing career. The Hornets won at least a share of the MEAC three out of four years while Milstead was a starter on the offensive line.

Milstead was an All-MEAC first team selection three times and was an All-American in 1991. He went on to be selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1992 NFL Draft.

Rod Milstead was the offensive line coach at DelState in 2014. DSU sports information photo

He won a Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers and later played for the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins.

His coaching career began at his high school alma mater, Lackey High of Maryland.

“I got bit by the coaching bug there,” Milstead said.

From there he spent a year as Delaware State’s offensive line coach under Kermit Blount in 2014. When Blount was let go, Milstead was named the interim coach but the university elected to sign Carter as the new coach in 2015.

The Hornets are coming off a 2-9 season but are only graduating eight players.

Milstead met with the players during the afternoon on Tuesday and later spent time with the interim staff left over from the Carter era.

“I don’t think the football program needs to be rebuilt,” he said. “I’ve said that several times. The tradition and the foundation have been laid for years from Bill Collick through Al Lavan. I just think we need to do some things to reboot it.

“There’s some things that can be salvaged and I know they will be. The biggest thing is changing the mindset of the young men that are there — teaching them how to win.”

When he was the offensive line coach and while he was interviewing, Milstead stressed the importance of bringing alumni back to support the football program.

“If I can be the person that helps bring our alumni back to Alumni Stadium, that’s great,” Milstead said in 2014. “But it’s not about Rod Milstead. It’s about winning a championship here and that’s all I’m about. I’m about winning and graduating good young men to be good citizens.”

Interim DSU Athletics Director Mary Hill said in a press release how important it is Milstead understands the Hornet athletics’ culture from an alumni’s perspective.

Equally critical, he understands exactly how driven our players, our campus, and our alumni are to field a competitive, winning team,” Hill said.

“Football sits in a special place in the heart of the Delaware State University community,” added interim DSU President Wilma Mishoe. “A big part of our family comes together on game day – in the stands and in spirit across the country – to cheer for the team and to represent Hornet Pride.

“We are always careful to remember that ‘student’ comes first in the phrase ‘student-athlete,’” she added. “I am particularly pleased to know that Coach Milstead is wholly committed to that principle.”

Milstead will have to work quickly in recruiting. National Signing Day is next Wednesday, Feb. 7.

Delaware State is no stranger to that though.

Carter wasn’t hired until Jan. 21, 2015 while Blount, was brought in as the head coach on Feb. 5, 2011. Carter’s contract expires today.

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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