Big Ten notebook: Heart transplant surgery doesn’t slow Penn State great Matt Millen
CHICAGO — Matt Millen will be back in a broadcast booth when the coming college football season begins, new heart and all.
The former Penn State star who played on four Super Bowl championship teams worked the room before Friday’s Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon and said heart transplant surgery has not done much to disrupt his life or appetite to return to the game.
“I haven’t had any problems. I’m really fortunate from what I’ve been told,” he said. “I’ve had no setbacks or anything. Things are going pretty good.”
Millen was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a rare disease in which abnormal protein buildup can cause organ failure. He waited about three months to get the call and received his heart during a procedure in December.
He said he was told he would receive a “high risk” donor heart. Millen had just one question before going into the operating room.
“I said to the doctor, ‘If I were your son, and I’m sitting here, what would you tell me?’” Millen recalled. “He said, ‘I’d take the heart.’ So I said, ‘Then let’s do it.’ If that’s what you’ve got to do, you do it.”
Millen was a popular NFL color man before serving as president of the Detroit Lions from 2001-08. He and play-by-play man Kevin Kugler will team for an Aug. 31 Big Ten network broadcast to begin the new season.
Michigan to expand horizons
Michigan hasn’t played a game outside the United States in more than a century but coach Jim Harbaugh said that soon will change.
Asked about the possibility of playing a game in Mexico, Harbaugh tipped an upcoming international date.
“We’re close to announcing playing a team on foreign soil,” he said at Big Ten media days. “I think there’s something imminent, an announcement soon on that.”
It came a day after outgoing conference commissioner Jim Delaney said he welcomed the idea of conference schools playing nonconference or postseason games in Mexico City or other foreign destinations.
Michigan last left the country for a game in 1885, when the squad crossed the Detroit River to take on a Windsor, Ontario, club team. It faced the University of Toronto five years earlier in the provincial capital.
Wolverines players and coaches have traveled to South Africa, France and Italy in recent offseasons. They took part in open practices during a 2017 visit to Rome, the program’s first jaunt across the Atlantic but have not engaged in workouts during either of the two most recent overseas excursions. Donors picked up the tab for all three trips.
Nassau, Bahamas, has hosted a postseason bowl game since the 2014 season. The most recent international game saw Stanford and Rice open their 2017 seasons in Sydney.