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From football to full-time father: Former WSU star Keith Millard embraces becoming stay-at-home dad

Keith Millard in 2018. (Courtesy of Keith Millard)

Keith Millard a stay-at-home dad?

It might have been exhausting to image 20 years in the past when Millard, the previous Washington State star with the bad-boy fame, was terrorizing NFL offenses with off-the-chart depth as a defensive deal with for the Minnesota Vikings and was the 1989 NFL defensive participant of the yr.

However after many years of soccer, Millard, a father of six, has discovered happiness at residence. Two of his youngsters are nonetheless at residence in Dublin, Calif., and he tends to them whereas spouse Paula works.

“The duties are countless,” stated Millard, who has youngsters starting from 13 to 31 and two younger grandsons. “It’s a seven-day-a-week job. My spouse is eight years youthful than me and continues to be ending her profession, so once I retired I took over her duties. It was an adjustment for positive. I do every part that anybody else would. I wash garments, I prepare dinner and I attempt to do every little thing I can to maintain issues regular and going as easily as attainable.”

Millard, 56, needed it to be totally different for his youngsters than it was for him, as one in every of 9 youngsters in a dysfunctional combined household that was full of rigidity.

Keith Millard in 2018. (Courtesy of Keith Millard)

Keith Millard in 2018. (Courtesy of Keith Millard)

He ultimately discovered an outlet in soccer.

“I didn’t begin enjoying soccer till my junior yr of highschool,” he stated. “No one in my household went to school, and I by no means imagined I might go to school. I liked the game, however my mother wouldn’t let me play as a child.”

Catching Up


Millard performed tight finish for Foothill Excessive Faculty in Pleasanton, Calif., as a junior, displaying good palms. He stated he was 6 ft four and about 190 kilos, “and was all the time fairly good at catching the ball, and labored my solution to first workforce.”

However issues at residence weren’t going nicely, and Millard moved in with a brother. A brand new soccer coach was employed at Foothill, and he and Millard didn’t get alongside. A couple of video games into his senior season in 1979, Millard was kicked off the staff.

“I had an angle and I undoubtedly contributed to it,” Millard stated. “I solely performed in three or 4 video games on the most my senior yr, however they have been actually good and stood out. However when recruiters got here, the coach was bad-mouthing me.”

That would have been the top of Millard’s soccer profession. However someday a Washington State soccer recruiter was at his faculty to take a look at one other participant. One in every of Millard’s academics, George Baljevich, intercepted the recruiter earlier than he might converse to the coach.

“He informed him my story and stated, ‘You have to take a look at movie of this man,’ ” Millard stated. “They introduced the movie to teach (Jim) Walden and all the things sort of took off from there.”

Walden needed to go to with Millard’s household, so Millard made a name to his mother and stepdad.

“I stated. ‘I have to be in the home so they may assume I’ve a traditional household life,’” Millard stated, laughing on the recollection. “So once they got here, it was a bit of intense to say the least, however I feel we pulled it off fairly nicely.”

Later, Millard discovered that Walden had been conscious of his state of affairs.

“His mother remarried, and that didn’t go nicely with him,” stated Walden, 80, who coached WSU from 1978-86, and later turned a longtime analyst on WSU soccer radio broadcasts. “I’m not going to get into all of that, however it was very disconcerting with him and his new stepfather. … There was some anger, and it took him a while to work by way of that.”

The transfer to Pullman modified every part for Millard, and he credit Walden “for saving my life.”

“It was the chance of a lifetime and I used to be taking it critically,” Millard stated. “I knew what I needed to do, and I used to be going to do no matter it took to get there. Thank God we had nice leaders that set nice examples. And coach Walden — I can’t inform you sufficient about that man.”

Nonetheless, there have been pitfalls. Millard acquired a popularity as a nasty boy. He spent 17 weeks in jail in the course of the summer time after his junior yr for a case by which he was convicted of straightforward assault within the fourth diploma.

“His fame at Washington State far exceeds what he truly did,” Walden stated. “I feel individuals typically generally tend to decorate when youngsters get into hassle. Keith was fairly filled with himself. However he was by no means as a lot of an issue for me as lots of people thought he was. Truly, he was fairly enjoyable to teach. He had a bit streak in him, however he was a great man.”

Millard’s soccer life change when he switched from tight finish to defensive position as a sophomore.

Millard stated, “I thought-about myself a pass-catching tight finish,” however there was no want for a pass-catching tight finish at Washington State, which ran the run-heavy veer offense.

At 215 kilos by then, Millard was constructed like a linebacker, however there was no want for an additional linebacker. He would must be a defensive lineman.

“I stated, ‘I’ll do it,’” Millard stated. “The spring of subsequent yr I used to be moved to defensive position.”

He acquired himself to about 240 kilos and for the subsequent two years he terrorized offenses, with two of the best seasons by a WSU defensive participant.

As a junior and senior, he mixed for 39½ tackles for loss, fifth most in class historical past, and had 21½ sacks, sixth in class historical past. He helped WSU to 2 consecutive victories within the Apple Cup in 1982 and 1983, and gained the Morris Trophy as a senior in 1983 because the Pac-10’s prime lineman.

Not dangerous for a transformed tight finish.

“Immediately, a number of the coaches stated it was the most effective factor that ever occurred to me,” Millard stated of creating the change. “They thought I had a very good future at it. That was encouraging, however I by no means thought greater than that. As soon as I acquired into the groove and located my area of interest … I don’t need to sound immodest, however I used to be just about unstoppable at that time.”

To his shock, the professional scouts have been paying consideration. He was drafted within the first spherical, No. 13 general, by the Minnesota Vikings, and within the first spherical of the USA Soccer League, the place he started his professional profession.

“My thought course of, even in my senior yr, was all I needed was a shot within the league and I might take it from there,” he stated. “I by no means thought in one million years I might get drafted, not to mention within the first spherical. That was a shock to me.”

After ending second within the USFL in sacks with 12 in 1984, he joined the Vikings in 1985 and his profession continued to ascend. He was as much as 260 to 265 kilos, and among the many most feared gamers within the league. He had no hassle getting round greater gamers together with his superior quickness and immense want.

“I labored onerous, was targeted, studied onerous and was a scholar of the sport,” stated Millard, who set the NFL document for sacks by a defensive deal with with 18 in 1989, and his report lasted virtually 30 years earlier than the Rams’ Aaron Donald broke it Sunday. “I used to be an absolute devoted, hard-working, hungry, goal-oriented sort of participant.

“I simply needed to maintain going and see how far this factor was going to take me.”

It appeared that may be the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame. However then, within the fourth recreation in 1990, he blew out his knee, together with tearing his ACL, and underwent reconstructive knee surgical procedure. He was by no means the identical.

Millard missed the 1991 season, after which the Seahawks traded a second-round draft selection for Millard in 1992, hoping he might regain the shape that made him the 1989 NFL defensive participant of the yr.

He was launched after two video games with Seattle, then suffered a damaged hand with Inexperienced Bay after signing with the Packers.

“It was cool at first,” Millard stated of becoming a member of the Seahawks. “However I feel it was a mistake, as a result of, No. 1, I don’t assume I used to be as prepared as I assumed I used to be. And No. 2, I lived in Seattle within the offseason, and I had a number of pals that have been a distraction to me. And my knee was nonetheless very problematic, making an attempt to get confidence on it. I used to be within the coaching room lots, getting remedy on it. It was very irritating.

“These have been some robust years for me, I’m telling you. Robust years, man, going from being on the prime of my recreation to the rug being pulled out. I had all the time come again from accidents and I simply couldn’t come again from this one. My thought course of up to now had been I’ll work by way of it. I’ll work more durable than anyone and do no matter it takes. However it was by no means proper, and I couldn’t do what I did earlier than. Not even shut.”

Millard was able to retire however was talked into signing with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994. He performed however his coronary heart was not in it, ending with 4 sacks, together with a sack towards the 49ers in his last recreation.

“I knew I used to be carried out,” he stated. “I by no means seemed again.”

He figured he was carried out with soccer, and headed to his ranch in Arizona. However at some point, the native highschool soccer coach knocked on Millard’s door, eager to know if Millard would assist out with the protection. He did, he loved it and he excelled.

A coach was born. Millard shortly labored by way of the ranks from school to the NFL, getting a job because the defensive position coach with the Denver Broncos in 2001. That was adopted by stints as an assistant with the Oakland Raiders, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans, with an interruption to get the primary of two hip replacements at age 38.

His rising household stayed in California throughout his last two NFL jobs, and when the employees at Tennessee was fired in 2013, Paula had a chat with Keith.

“She stated, ‘You actually need to give up. You’re getting previous, your youngsters are getting older, you’re lacking a whole lot of time with your loved ones. You have to cease,’ ” he stated. “So I did. I began getting again into my youngsters’ lives and feeling fairly good about it.”

Teaching was restricted to serving to together with his youngsters’ groups.

“I assist the place I can, to be with my youngsters,” he stated.

Along with the hip replacements, Millard additionally has had a knee alternative and now must get his neck fused. However he doesn’t let that minimize into his duties at house. It’s the place he’s staying, even when the soccer temptation by no means leaves for good.

“There’s a big adjustment from 14 hours daily and the strain of the sport that you simply get used to, then go to nothing,” he stated. “It took me a few years to get used to it. Yearly I take into consideration getting again however actuality kicks in. I can’t do it anymore.”

Watching from afar with nice satisfaction is Walden.

“He’s certainly one of my largest accomplishments in a way of I’m pleased with what he turned as a result of I do know from the place he got here,” Walden stated. “I understand how arduous the journey was. And I do know what a dedication he has made through the years to get the place he’s and to make selections that he’s making. I really like how a lot he loves his household, elevating them, and the way a lot he’s having fun with them. It simply makes me really feel that’s what teaching is all about. I’m very pleased with Keith Millard. Actually, actually proud.”