Mike Vorel: Lawyer Milloy earns Washington degree nearly 30 years later, keeps promise to mom

Mike Vorel, The Seattle Times on

Published in Football

SEATTLE — Last week, Washington football published a social-media post congratulating the program’s 18 spring or summer graduates. The group included 17 Huskies from this or last year’s team.

Plus: Lawyer Milloy.

Milloy, of course, starred in Seattle as a tackle-stacking safety from 1993 to 1995. The Tacoma product earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors and led UW in tackles in each of his last two seasons, before being plucked by the New England Patriots in the second round of the 1996 NFL draft. The 6-foot, 211-pound torpedo proceeded to play 15 NFL seasons — amassing four Pro Bowls, two career-closing campaigns with his hometown Seahawks (2009-10) and a 2001 Super Bowl title.

His trophy case was A) overcrowded, and B) incomplete.

Because, three decades earlier, Milloy made a promise to his mother.

“She was always about education,” said Milloy, who was 50 credits shy of graduating when he declared for the draft. “Playing sports was a bonus to doing everything else right, including education. I made that promise to my mom [to get a UW degree], and obviously didn’t fulfill it because I had opportunities to go into the NFL or even the major leagues.

“When I looked at my transcripts when I reinstated, it was evident where my mind was 25 years ago. It wasn’t on education as much as it should have been.”

Milloy — who was selected twice in the MLB draft and played baseball and football at UW — delayed a promise to chase a dream. But the dangling prospect of a UW degree dogged him for decades.

“This was something I always revisited in my mind over the last 25 years: ‘I should go back. I should go back,’ ” said Milloy, 50. “But with playing football, things outside of football, business, I just always made excuses to be busy — to not do it. I think it was more my fear of getting back into a scholastic environment, learning again.”

After the world paused amid the COVID-19 pandemic, his excuses evaporated. Milloy’s house and schedule were emptying, as his four daughters also grew — and graduated. First, Amirah Milloy — an outfielder for the Husky softball team — earned her UW degree in 2019. Kiki Milloy developed into an All-American softball player at the University of Tennessee, and notched a degree in neuroscience in 2023. Tia Milloy will graduate from Redmond High School this week and has signed to play at softball powerhouse Oklahoma, and 12-year-old Breya stars in softball as well.

While Lawyer contemplated completing his own degree, his daughters lapped their dad.

“I just looked around, and I was being passed up by own family members, man,” joked Milloy, who recently completed his ninth year coaching Redmond High School softball.

In August 2022, Milloy rejoined the race. He enrolled in UW’s integrated social sciences program, which studies how complex groups and societies function and evolve. He hopes to use that knowledge to elevate his impact with “Construct Diversity,” a nonprofit organization that fosters racial and gender diversity in the construction industry.

The integrated social sciences courses were entirely online, with assignments due at 11:59 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And initially, Milloy struggled to adapt, dueling an erratic attention span and vacillating motivation.

“It stumbled me up enough to want to give up,” said Milloy, who also utilized UW’s Finish Line program, which provides financial assistance to help former Husky athletes complete their degrees. “Me knowing I didn’t have to do this to myself … several times it was like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ I had to battle through that in the first quarter.”


He didn’t battle alone. Milloy credits his wife (Claudine, a former All-American hurdler at UW) and daughters for providing consistent support, as well as Ink Aleaga — a former Husky teammate and academic adviser who steered Lawyer toward integrated social sciences. He also leaned on associate athletic director Liberty Bracken, who previously served as his daughter’s UW athletic adviser.

With an unwavering support system, Milloy found his rhythm. Or, to maintain the metaphor, the retired safety started to run.

“I could take my time, figure out the pockets [in the day] where I was mentally sharp,” he said. “But I still had to get the assignments done. I was still held accountable. That’s the thing that was kind of missing from my life, especially with my daughters leaving the house and graduating. I needed something to rejuvenate my brain and give me some discipline, a schedule, an itinerary. That program definitely did that.”

Milloy technically graduated in March but walked in UW’s commencement ceremony last weekend. He said “the sheer joy my family had after the commencement, the hugs … they know how much work I put into it, how much I wanted it. Those hugs felt more genuine, more happy for me than after winning the Super Bowl.”

Milloy purchased two gratitude stoles — ceremonial sashes typically worn around the neck by graduates — to present to loved ones on UW’s commencement day.

He gave one to his wife … and the other to his mother.

“I put it around her neck, and she started crying,” Milloy said of his mother, Mae. “She always tells us we’re more than just athletes, more than just humans. We have an opportunity to impact the world. So she was really proud of me.”

Lawyer Milloy’s pride has yet to subside.

Which brings us back to the beginning.

“Probably my biggest joy, besides seeing my family’s joy, was seeing the football team include me in the picture of the graduates [on social media]. I thought that was really, really cool. I felt like I completed my service there,” said Milloy, who’s considering a future in NFL scouting to be back around the game.

“They’ve always recognized my efforts for the program. That’s why I continue to show my face as much as I can. I don’t get out as much anymore. A lot of things that used to be important to me just aren’t. But UW football and family are always important.”

It took three decades to do it, but UW football and family are fused together by a promise he fulfilled.

“It was probably the hardest thing I ever did in my life, honestly,” Milloy said of his UW degree. “Things change. The curriculum changed. The technology changed.

“It was just fighting the fact that I really didn’t have to do it. There’s plenty of people that go through life and are successful, and they don’t have a degree. But I chose to fulfill that for myself, for my family and for anyone else that wants to listen.”

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