When Bryan was in the sixth grade, the family moved to Dumas, a farming and ranching community 45 miles north of Amarillo, in the heart of the Texas panhandle. The town was mad for football. More than 3,000 fans would pack the local stadium on Friday nights to watch Dumas High play. Swept up by that spirit, Bryan joined the Hillcrest Hawks elementary school team, and by high school, he had made himself into an all-district offensive tackle and an all-state defensive lineman. He had even more success in track and field: Millard won the state class AAA shot put championship as a senior with a throw of 61'7".
Every Division I football school in the state recruited Millard. He chose Texas because he had so much fun on his recruiting visit. "John Mize, an assistant coach, brought a twin-engine plane to pick me up," says Millard. "That was a big deal. Why, the Dumas Airport only has a wind sock. Because of fog, we got to Austin late. When we finally arrived at the stadium, Steve Massey, a defensive tackle who was my escort for the weekend, screamed, 'Mize, where the hell have you been? My liver's on fire. I need a beer.' I thought, This guy is a player?
"After a few beers, we went to a Jerry Jeff Walker concert. I ate more chili peppers than I'd ever seen in my life. After that, we went to a game preserve and shot a pronghorn antelope. We took it over to the football dorm and hung it in the shower. It was the wildest night ever."
Millard became a starter in his junior season, and the next year he made first-team All-Southwest Conference. In January 1983, the New Jersey Generals of the then brand-new USFL made Millard their 12th-round pick in the draft. "Chuck Fairbanks, the Generals' coach, called," says Millard. "I asked, 'Where's New Jersey?' He said, 'It's next to New York.' I said, 'Do they have country music up there?'
Posted: 7:24 p.m. Thursday, July 17, 2014
Jeff Leiding’s debut as a Texas football player was symbolic of the hard-charging life he lived.
On the first play of the 1980 season opener against sixth-ranked Arkansas, Leiding — a strapping 6-3, 230-pound freshman linebacker — leaped two blockers aiming for his legs and speared the kickoff returner in mid-air, jump-starting a 23-17 win for 10th-ranked Texas.
Leiding separated his shoulder on the play.
“It’s one of those (plays) you hope as a player you get a chance to get, but you’re not always willing to pay the price,” recalled former Texas coach David McWilliams, who was Leiding’s linebackers coach at the time. “It did knock him a little cuckoo.”
Leiding, a 1983 All-American who was beloved by Longhorns fans for his knee-buckling hits and colorful personality, died Sunday in St. Louis from a heart attack. He was 52.
His raucous college introduction convinced McWilliams that Leiding should wear No. 60, an honor for Texas linebackers bestowed first on Johnny Treadwell and made famous later by Tommy Nobis. Leiding wore the number beginning his sophomore season when he made 107 tackles and 8.5 sacks. That team went 10-1-1 in 1981 and finished second in the Associated Press poll. The Longhorns followed with nine wins in 1982 and captured the 1983 Southwest Conference title with an 11-1 overall mark his senior season.
“One hell of a college linebacker … 60 fit him well,” said offensive lineman Bryan Millard, Leiding’s teammate.
The St. Louis Cardinals selected Leiding in the fifth round of the 1984 NFL draft, which yielded a record 17 Longhorns. He played his final snap four years later, succumbing to injuries as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.
“Great teammate, great player, everyone liked him and respected him,” said Kiki DeAyala, a linebacker who played with Leiding for three seasons at Texas.
Leiding was a rare recruit, an Oklahoma product who eschewed Oklahoma for rival Texas. Asked why, Leiding, who had moved to Tulsa from Kansas City before his senior year of high school, said simply that he liked Texas more. OU fans never forgave him. As recently as a few years ago, a sports talk radio station in Oklahoma City named Leiding the second-most hated athlete in the state, said his sister, Susan Nixon.
“He was proud to play for the University of Texas,” Nixon said. “He left his mark on this world. He was well thought of by a lot of people.”
Leiding ruffled feathers in 1986, revealing that he had received cash payments from alumni and boosters throughout college. He also charged that Fred Akers, Texas’ head coach, knew about players selling their complimentary game tickets for up to $600. Akers denied the charge.
Texas was sentenced to two years’ probation — which later was reduced to one — and lost scholarships and recruiting visits.
Leiding, who was working in roofing until his death, is survived by his fiance, Christy Smith, and his adult children, Kelcy and Jeffrey, as well as four granddaughters. He will be buried Saturday in St. Louis.
John Hagy 1983
When it comes to bricks and football, there is likely no greater authority than John Hagy. As one of the leading home builders in Austin, as well as a former Longhorn and NFL star who played in a Super Bowl, he knows a lot about both.
So given the Longhorns' 2011 reconstruction philosophy of "brick by brick," I asked John what you do when something goes wrong after you have played pretty well for four games and start feeling pretty good about yourselves after four successful layers of bricks have been put in place.
"That's exactly how the home building business goes too," he said with a chuckle. "I always joke around and say, `things feel a little too good right now.' Every time I start to think things are going well, and everything's scheduled on time, and things are hitting and firing correctly, you had better put your head on a swivel and see what you are missing, because it's coming."
And when it does, he says, you go back to brick four and build from there.
So, what's the philosophy when you hit a snag on brick No. 5?
"You take it back down. You gotta pull it apart and you gotta put it back together correctly. It takes time and effort, just like it does in football. You put in the extra work that's necessary. You take it back to brick No. 4, where it has all been done correctly. When five is a little out of level, then it's time to take five down and put things back up together. The scary thing is, you don't want to put five and then get to 25 and realize it has to come down because it doesn't line up right. You want to constantly keep checking so that if it gets to seven or eight and doesn't look right, then you have to fix that.
Oscar Giles 1987
Giles had just finished his professional career in the Canadian Football League when, at age 30, he decided it was finally time to "go out and get a real job." He immediately gravitated toward a coaching career, remembering how his former coaches influenced his life.
"I needed to give back," said Giles, in his second stint as defensive line coach at the University of Houston. "They gave me that role model. Because of them, I was able to learn how to grow up and be a man."
Only one problem for Giles: He had no coaching experience.
His former college coach at Texas, David McWilliams, recommended he write down every coach he knew, then told him to call them.
From Todd Dodge On Recruiting
“I tell players all the time, … back in 1980, 81 when I was getting recruited, literally, the recruiting process started around January 1 and it lasted about one month,” Dodge said. “There were no games that you went to, there were no camps, there were no junior days. You found out, basically, your coach told you when the season was over with, ‘Oh, by the way, these guys like you.’ He probably already set up your visits for you and here’s your four, five visits. So it was only about a one month process.”
coach Dodge (Westlake)
“One of the things we try to tell our players is don’t let anybody take your joy away during the process. I was visiting with a great friend of mine who’s got a very high-profile son in our state, and I just told him, ‘Just remind him, don’t let anybody take your joy away the last two weeks of the process.'”