Tarique Milton’s simple goal for the season: Dominate

Tarique Milton talks to reporters at Iowa State media day on August 9.

Sam Stuve

Following a 2020 season that was shortened because of injuries, Iowa State wide receiver Tarique Milton says he’s coming into the 2021 season with his mindset being focused on being as dominant as he can be. 

“My mindset is to be the best that I can do, and to be as dominant that I can be,” Milton said.

Milton, a senior from Bradenton, Florida, says he is trying to manifest something as well this season: success.

“I just want to be great, I want to be successful,” Milton said.

In 2019, Milton had 35 receptions for 722 yards and three touchdowns and played in all 13 games that season. 2020 was a different story for him however.

Due to injuries, Milton only played in half of Iowa State’s games in 2020 (6), only catching 15 passes for 102 yards and didn’t score a touchdown. Following this past season, Milton said he went up to head coach Matt Campbell in January and talked about wanting to be great.

At the same time, senior quarterback Brock Purdy said he and Milton had a similar discussion and talked about team goals for the 2021 season.

“When he came back from the bowl game he and I just talked about what our goals are, what the vision is for himself in his last year as well as mine,” Purdy said. “He’s definitely gotten in the playbook, film and understanding what his weaknesses were last year.”

Campbell said that Milton went on a “soul searching mission” last season and it’s stayed with him during the offseason.

“I think he was on a soul searching mission himself, ‘Man, tough cards get dealt my way. How do I overcome this? and how do I become the best version of myself that I can be in every area?’ It started with getting healthy,” Campbell said at media day. 

Because of the praise he’s received from his teammates and coaches throughout fall camp, it appears that Milton is in the position he’s been in while at Iowa State.

“If you see Tarique Milton now, man he looks phenomenal,” Campbell said. “It’s best that I’ve seen him physically, he’s almost 200 pounds right now, he looks really big, strong, powerful and has really flashed early on.”

Milton has stayed healthy throughout the offseason and throughout fall camp and has caught the attention of his quarterback. Purdy said that Milton was one of the best receivers he’s seen throughout fall camp.

Statements from Nate Scheelhaase, the wide receivers/running backs and running game coordinator, mirrored Campbell’s and Purdy.

Scheelhaase said he told Campbell in the early stages of fall camp that Milton had “as consistent of a first three days as he could have” and that Milton “is in as good of a spot as a football player right now as what he’s ever been” in the program.

Having Milton back for the entirety of a season, could do wonders for the Iowa State offense, which already has some big producers. 

In addition to Milton, Iowa State has multiple weapons in tight end Charlie Kolar and Xavier Hutchinson, who are All-Big 12 selections (multiple in the case of Kolar) and who have both had seasons with over 550 receiving yards and seven touchdowns before (once for Hutchinson and twice for Kolar. Plus, there’s Chase Allen who is a three time All-Big 12 tight end and oh yeah, there’s a Heisman contending running back in Breece Hall as well.)

The biggest improvement Scheelhaase said he’s seen grow the most is with internal confidence.

“It’s hard to say where he’s grown the most, I think he’s grown the most just with almost an internal confidence of who he is in what he can do, not only on the football field, but even off the football field,” Scheelhaase said. “ It’s hard to say, ‘Man, that’s the one spot he’s grown the most, because I think in every way.’”

When asked what it would take for Tarique to become the dominant player that he wants to be, Scheelhaase said it comes down to consistency throughout the entire season.

Having Milton back for a full season could mean more big plays for the Cyclones. In his three seasons at Iowa State, Milton has caught seven passes for 40 yards or more. 

Scheelhaase described Milton as a dangerous offensive weapon.

“Tarique Milton is as dangerous of a slot as you can find in the country,” Scheelhaase said. “I’m excited to see him on the field, threatening the defensive backs the way that he has in the past and the way that he’ll continue to do this year.”

One of the biggest areas that Scheelhaase has seen growth from Milton awareness and intelligence on the field.

“Number one, it’s understanding our offense, number two it’s understanding the opposing team’s defense and I think the third part is really understanding where he fits with the quarterback,” Scheelhaase said. 

Coaches and players have praised Milton’s ability to fight through the injuries and the adversity he’s faced and now with less than two weeks before the season begins, it is nearly time to see how the work in the offseason and fall camp will pay off.

“Anytime you get injured, that’s hard,” Campbell said. “I think that’s mentally that’s really challenging. I’m so proud of Tarique for having the ability to stay the course and help us at the end of the [2020] football season.”

In addition to praising his ability to respond to adversity, he also talked about his excitement level to see Milton play this season.

These words were similar to what Scheelhaase had to say. 

“I just think you’ve seen the most consistent and healthy Tarique that we’ve seen and I’m excited about that for him,” Campbell said.

In regards to team goals this season, Milton said it’s to win a championship and to put in the work day-by-day to do so.