CHICAGO -- Penn State football great Matt Millen is known now for his work as a college football analyst and Millen is scheduled to work PSU's Sept. 1 season opener against Appalachian State at Beaver Stadium for the Big Ten Network.
Millen, a former Oakland/Los Angeles Raider, also does analyst work for Raiders' preseason games and he will call Oakland's Aug. 30 preseason game at Seattle, then catch a red-eye flight back home in time for PSU-Appalachian State.
That's a pretty demanding test for a 60-year-old -- or for anyone -- and this 60-year-old has been battling a disease that will require a heart transplant.
The Lehigh Valley native and resident revealed in the spring that he has amyloidosis, a disease in which a protein known as an amyloid is produced in bone barrow and builds up in a person's organs. In this case, the disease has attacked Millen's heart, which he said is operating at about 30 percent efficiency.
Millen played for the late Joe Paterno in the mid-to-late 1970s. A terrific defensive lineman at PSU, Millen was picked in the second round of the 1980 NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders, who moved him to inside linebacker. Millen won four Super Bowls during a lengthy NFL career, two with the Raiders, one with the San Francisco 49ers and one with the Washington Redskins.
Millen first began feeling symptoms in 2011, according to a Peter King story that ran on SI.com in the spring. After numerous tests and many doctor consults, the amyloidosis diagnosis was made roughly a year ago, according to King's story.
Millen has dropped roughly 50 pounds and now weighs in the 225 range. In an interview with PennLive during the Big Ten Media Days sessions here, it was clear his sense of humor is still in fine shape.
But there is no getting around the fact Millen will require a heart transplant.
"I'm down 50 pounds,'' Millen said.
"They want me to stay under 230 and I'm around 225. That's what I weighed when I was a junior in high school (at Whitehall), so it's been awhile."
"But my clothes fit better,'' he laughed. "Don't go on the 'chemo' diet, I don't suggest it."
"But I'm still going to need a heart,'' Millen continued.
"We're still at that process. ... You can do it at different places regionally. But I feel pretty active and so far, so good.''
Millen, who is coming off seven weeks of chemotherapy in his fight with the disease, even managed to make light of his situation when one of his doctors told him about the need for a heart transplant.
"That's what they tell me,'' Millen said, referring to the heart transplant.
"And I'll you the same thing I told the last doctor. We came in and he said, 'You're going to need a heart transplant'.
"I said, 'Let me tell you something, my heart at 30 percent is better than yours at 90 percent', and we both started laughing.
"He actually said, 'There's some truth to that based off of your years of training', and all of that stuff. You know, I just take it as it comes.''
Millen keeps pushing forward and his plan is to work a full slate of football games in the fall, beginning with the Penn State opener. He said he studied the Lions during their spring drills and is looking forward to seeing his alma mater play in 2018 without a talent group of players from 2017 that included Saquon Barkley, a fellow Whitehall High School grad.
"For the fall, I'm going to try and do a full (TV) schedule,'' Millen said.
"Right now, I have been off the 'chemo' for seven weeks as of today. Actually, I feel a little better. I can finally start to taste some things for a change.''
"As far as Penn State is concerned, what are they going to be like on the defensive side of the ball, (what are) the defensive tackles going to look like?" Millen said.
"You have linebackers, that's probably a bigger question mark. I want to see just how much better the offensive line has gotten. You have some talented kids in the running back spots but they're not going to be Saquon (Barkley).
"That's one of the fun things about college football. It's almost like a Christmas package, you know? You open it up, and what do you get?''