Mills on the scent of an instant connection with Bills' coaches - The Buffalo News
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Mills on the scent of an instant connection with Bills' coaches

The question caught Jordan Mills a little off-guard during his first encounter with his new position coach.

Juan Castillo wasn't asking about Mills' offseason conditioning routine. Nor was he inquiring about something he had noticed on video about the tackle's pass-blocking technique.

No, the question was about the brand of cologne Mills was wearing.

"Is that One Million?" the Buffalo Bills' offensive line coach wanted to know.

"How do you know I got on that cologne?" Mills said.

"Because I've got on that same cologne right now."

Then, showing the ability to think quickly on his feet, Mills shot back, "Great minds think alike."

The meeting took place last week, after Mills, who had become a free agent, arrived at One Bills Drive to sign a two-year contract to remain with the team. He and Castillo immediately hit it off, and not simply because they share the same scent. Mills was drawn to Castillo's high level of energy and engaging personality.

Mills had a solid history with the Bills' previous offensive line coach, Aaron Kromer, going back to when the Chicago Bears made Mills a fifth-round draft pick from Louisiana Tech in 2013. Kromer was in his first season as the Bears' offensive coordinator.

When the Bills needed an offensive tackle while in London for a game against Jacksonville during the 2015 season, Kromer's first in Buffalo, the coach knew exactly who he wanted. And the Bills plucked Mills from the Detroit Lions' practice squad and promptly put him on a plane to join the team in the United Kingdom.

Still, Mills expects that he can build the same sort of relationship with Castillo, coach Sean McDermott and the rest of the new staff.

"He’s very enthusiastic and he’s very energetic," Mills said of Castillo. "He cares a lot and I got to talk to him a few times and his enthusiasm and his love for the game, his passion for the game, is unmatched. He always has a smile on his face, he always has something to talk about."

Walking around the Bills' facility, Mills could see changes already being made. McDermott's influence is showing up in the form of remodeling in the training room and other areas directly attached to the football side of the operation.

Mills can sense a distinctive change in the atmosphere throughout the building.

"Even though there’s a lot of construction and it’s empty right now, it’s just the feeling in the air is different," he said. "And nothing to knock Coach Rex (Ryan); he was a great coach, a player’s coach. He did everything in his power to make sure we could succeed. Unfortunately, things didn’t happen the way he wanted to last year, but this is a business.

"Walking in here and feeling a different atmosphere, the improvements of the training room and things of that nature, and then talking to the coaches and everybody’s smiling and chomping at the bit to get started. I know if you talk to Coach McDermott right now, if he could’ve started after the season was over, he would have. So to see how excited he is and wanting to build that championship style of play and football for this team and get these fans what they’ve been lacking and deserving, speaks volumes to me."

Mills started all 16 games at right tackle last season. Although he wasn't a disaster, he was far from spectacular and will have to prove his worthiness to keep the job. Seantrel Henderson figures to be in the mix, although he still must serve four games of a 10-game suspension he received late last year (after a four-game suspension) for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Henderson has been using marijuana, a substance banned by the league, to help cope with Crohn's Disease, which required him to undergo multiple surgeries last offseason.

But the Bills could very well try to upgrade the position by moving newly signed guard Vladimir Ducasse there or selecting a tackle in the NFL Draft.

Mills isn't taking anything for granted.

"You have to work for it and I’m going to work my butt off; I'm always going to," he said. "I’m not going to let anybody outwork me. I’m going to push everybody and I know everybody’s going to push back. I know (left guard) Richie (Incognito's) going to push me, I know (center Eric) Wood’s going to push (right guard) John (Miller). I’m going to push John, John is going to push me, John’s going to push (left tackle) Cordy (Glenn), Cordy’s going to push all of us.

"And Tyrod (Taylor) is signal-calling – and he’s going to push all of us. Everybody might think he’s soft-spoken, but he’s very demanding. He leads our huddle very well and I’m glad to have him back."

How glad?

"My fiancé was probably thinking I was going crazy when I was on my phone," Mills said. "I just jumped over the coffee table because I was excited. … Even though (Mills' contract is) for two years, I want to be here for the rest of my career and I just got to work hard at it and get after it."

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