While Chicago Rush head coach Bob McMillen is honored by his nomination to the Arena Football Hall of Fame, but he does not want to let it get in the way of his main focus: winning.
"It's a great honor. I think my wife and my kids were more excited than I was, but it is a great honor to be in the same category as all these great players," McMillen said. "We are focusing on beating Philly, (the Rush play the Philadelphia Soul Saturday) though, not the hall of fame."
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What's up with the Rush?Here's a quick glance at the turbulent season for the AFL's Chicago franchise, which left Allstate Arena and now plays home games in Rockford as the league looks for new ownership.
Change becomes a constant
The Chicago Rush has had three different owners, including the league itself, since November 2012. On Nov. 12, Chicago was purchased by Julee White of Testarossa Entertainment, but the purchase was terminated by the AFL three months later due to the ownership's failure to meet league obligations. In February, Star Rush Football LLC, led by David Staral Jr., bought the Rush just three weeks after the league terminated White's ownership. The league then took over the franchise in May after it learned that Staral Jr. had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and not paid allof his bills to some of the Rush's partners.
Joining the AFL playoff race
Chicago is 8-6 with four games left in the season, which puts the team in position to make a late-season playoff push.
"What can you say about what we have gone through this season? It still feels like it's going on, but it's brought the locker room together," fullback J.J. Payne said. "It's truly us against the world."
The Rush will finish the season on the road. The team will play its final two "home" games at BMO Bank Center in Rockford and at HP Pavillion at San Jose, Calif., after breaking its deal with Allstate Arena. The Rush is an impressive 7-2 in games played outside of Rosemont. Chicago's next game is Saturday at Philadelphia.
McMillen, an Oak Park native who now calls Naperville home, has always been the humble guy on his football teams. Fullback/linebacker is not a glamour position in a pass-heavy league like the AFL, but that's where McMillen first made his mark in the league.
Current Rush starting fullback J.J. Payne hopes McMillen can be the first fullback to earn the AFL's highest honor.
"Man, you feel good for all the fullbacks. To get a fullback into the hall of fame would be great," Payne said. "It's a gritty, grimy position; we only get a little bit of glory, so it is an honor for him and all fullbacks."
McMillen, who played 13 years in the league, appreciates what he accomplished as a player.
"For the position, it's great. I'll always believe the fullback and linebacker position was always the hardest back in the day because we had to play both ways," McMillen said. "If I make it in, it will be shocking because there were all these great players ahead of me. To be the first player to make it in at my position would be more shocking than exciting."
McMillen is not sure if his three AFL championships or his rushing records are why he earned this nomination, but he believes his long commitment to the league is what brought him this far.
"I was dumb enough to play 13 years," McMillen joked. "I played for so long. Being able to be a good teammate, to be successful, to play 12 out of the 13 seasons with a winning record, I think that's why they nominated me."
McMillen ranks third all-time with 1,508 rushing yards and second all-time with 484 rushing attempts. He is also the only player to win three AFL championships with three different teams, including 2006 with the Rush.
Voting started June 24 and will continue through July 26. Fans can vote online at www.arenafootball.com. The 2013 Arena Football Hall of Fame class will be announced during the 2013 conference championship weekend.
But that is not until August, which is why McMillen is only focused on winning right now. Although the Rush have had a season of turmoil led by its ownership changes, McMillen still has the team in playoff position with four weeks left in the regular season. His nomination for the hall of fame and the team's winning record are two of the brightest spots during a difficult year for the Chicago franchise.
If he gets in, McMillen, a former three-time all-American at Illinois Benedictine, will gladly accept the prestigious title of hall of famer. If he misses the cut, the third-year head coach has a game plan as well.
"If I don't make it, I'm going to wake up next day and have breakfast with my kids, enjoy being a dad and being a football coach."