Paul Tchio is a big boy.
The 6-foot-5 guard is in the neighborhood of 290 pounds, depending on what he had for his last meal. Tchio knows he’s not bigger than the Milton (Ga.) High School program though. That’s something Milton head coach Adam Clack stressed during a recent interview.
“I don’t want to stereotype any group, but he’s always been big—even in middle school—and it’s easy for those guys to let coaching go in one ear and out the other and just do their thing and dominate because of their size,” Clack said. “He takes coaching. He works with (former NFL offensive lineman) Willie Anderson, and Paul has taken on such a leadership role on this team.
“He never seems to be in a bad mood. He’s always smiling. Always tries to get the energy going.”
Tchio, a senior who has committed to play at Clemson, will be one of the top recruits who will participate in this year’s Freedom Bowl, a six-team, three-day event that will be played Aug. 29-31 at Milton High School. Milton will kick off the event Aug. 29, when it meets Alpharetta (Ga.). It will be the 13th meeting between the programs, and Milton has won the last three matchups. The Eagles prevailed 37-27 last year.
“We’re definitely looking forward to that one,” Alpharetta coach Jacob Nichols said. “Last year we finished with a 6-5 record and made it to the first round of the playoffs. I think we would all agree in our program that it’s not quite up to the standard that we expect, so that’s a major goal for us this year—to improve upon that.
“We did lose a great deal of talent off last year’s team. We had 11 players sign college scholarships, which is very exciting for us, but we also had a chance to play a lot of underclassmen last year, especially a lot of 10th-graders and they will all be back with us this year. We feel like we got some quality experience this last year and that really helped set us up for some success heading into this school year.”
Unlike a year ago, when the Eagles had no shortage of playmakers, Tchio will be the marquee player on this year’s team. Eleven Milton players who were First Team All-Region selections in 2018 graduated. That group includes quarterback Jordan Yates and tight end/wide receiver Dylan Leonard—both of whom are playing at Georgia Tech—linebacker Jordan Davis (West Georgia), defensive back Joseph Charleston (Clemson) and defensive back Nasier Currie-Sudler (UMass).
“It’ll definitely be a different style (this season),” Tchio explained. “We’re adjusting to our strengths. I was the only returning starter on the line last year. This year we have pretty much everybody back. We’re built from the inside out this year.”
Tchio said he narrowed his college choices to Alabama, Clemson and Tennessee before he chose Clemson.
“I think (the recruiting process) went pretty smooth, but it was stressful at times,” he said. “I felt really good committing to Clemson. It was the right fit for me. I think they recruited me different. They were genuine and honest with me through the whole process.”
The Freedom Bowl was created to help raise awareness for veterans, and the proceeds benefit wounded warriors and their military families. The other games in this year’s event:
Aug. 30: Pickerington Central (Ohio) vs. Winter Park (Fla.)
Aug. 30: Cocoa (Fla.) vs. Hoover (Ala.)
Aug. 31: Bishop Sycamore (Ohio) vs. Daytona Mainland (Fla.)
Aug. 31: Clearwater Central Catholic (Fla.) vs. Brentwood Academy (Tenn.)
Aug. 31: UMS-Wright (Ala.) vs. Western (Fla.)
Milton beat Cardinal Gibbons of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., 42-17, in last year’s Freedom Bowl, which was also played at Milton High School. Milton capped a 13-2 season by beating Colquitt County 14-13 in Georgia’s 7A championship game, and Cardinal Gibbons went on to win Florida’s Class 5A championship.
Some media outlets called Milton’s victory over Colquitt County the biggest upset in the history of Class 7A football. Colquitt County was unbeaten and several publications had the Packers ranked among the top five teams in the nation entering that contest. It was the first state title for the Milton program.
Clack said getting the Milton some national exposure was an immediate goal when he was hired as the program’s head coach in 2017.
“That was a big initiative of mine when I got to Milton,” he said. “We have a real rich pedigree in a lot of things, but football has always been OK. We needed to start putting these kids in big events. I did some checking around and when I heard about it (the Freedom Bowl) and that it was built around patriotism and civic duty, I said, ‘This sounds like exactly what we wanted to do.’
Get used to reading about 6-foot-6 Paul Tchio from Milton. Class of 2020 OT with UGA and Maryland offers. It is pronounced "Tio." pic.twitter.com/YCn364aQ6u— Jeff Sentell (@jeffsentell) September 15, 2017
“We put in a bid (to host) and were fortunate enough to be selected.”
Although he has the size of an offensive tackle, Tchio plays left guard for Milton. Last year, he was used sparingly on the defensive line as well.
“We’re a big inside-zone team, so we like having some meat inside to get some push,” Clack said. “He’s got all the tools. Not only is he big, he’s very agile—a good athlete.”
Tchio said moving to offensive tackle could be a possibility when he enters the Clemson program. He plans to graduate from high school in December and enroll at Clemson early.
Clack said he was impressed with how Tchio dealt with the recruiting process.
“I think he could be the example of how to handle it,” he said. “During his sophomore year he did a good job of going to games when he was invited. Even though he made an early decision he took his time. Now he can put that stuff to the side and focus on playing football.”
For Milton opponents, dealing with Tchio this season will undoubtedly prove to be a big problem.