DANVILLE — At 30 years old, Johnny Millard is on his way to becoming a football lifer.
The son of former NFL player and coach Keith Millard, Johnny starred at Foothill High in Pleasanton as a tackling machine more than a decade ago, stood out at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and more recently was on the staff at his high school alma mater.
Now Millard has his own team to coach, his own staff to lead, his own players to mold.
He is the new coach at Monte Vista, taking over the Danville school’s program from former NFL running back CJ Anderson, who stepped down after one season to become an assistant at Rice University.
“For me, it was an easy decision,” Millard told the Bay Area News Group on Thursday. “They’re a program with a tradition of excellence. They just produce so many great players, so many great young men. The support from the Danville community, the support from the athletic department, the staff, you just feel that when you walk on campus.”
Millard is leaving family behind as he makes the move up I-680. His younger brother, Kade, who plays tight end and defensive end at Foothill, will be a senior in the fall. Their father, also a Foothill alum, helps coach the team.
Last season, with the Millards all together, the Falcons captured the East Bay Athletic League’s Valley Division championship and reached the North Coast Section Division II final.
“I had an absolute blast coaching there,” Millard said. “It was definitely bittersweet walking away. But they were incredibly supportive. They knew this was a goal of mine, and they also knew it was a great opportunity. It was really nice to have them in my corner, all the way from my brother to my dad, the Foothill coaches, parents. That meant a ton.”
Millard takes over a program that last season went 7-3 overall and 2-2 in the EBAL’s top division, the Mountain.
Monte Vista’s starting quarterback (Dyllan Devitt), leading rusher (Rocco Schramm) and top receiver (Cole Boscia) were seniors last fall, as was tight end Jack Endries.
So there won’t be just new faces on the sideline next season.
But the program will have a man in charge who understands the impact high school coaches can have on young minds and treasures the sport.
Foothill’s Johnny Millard was a candidate for this news organization’s Cream of the Crop team in 2008-09. (Kyle Bonagura/Bay Area News Group archives).
“I knew I wanted to coach,” said Millard, who had 116 tackles his senior season at Foothill in 2008. “I love football. I grew up with it from the day I was born. I think sometimes people can go both directions there — worn out or you can kind of become immersed in the game. I just feel like it was such a blessing to grow up being around my dad with him playing and coaching.
“Obviously loving the sport as a player, I thought there would be a good opportunity to continue that passion as a coach. I didn’t know if that was going to be high school, college or if I ever wanted to pursue something like my dad. To me, coaching high school football is the best of every world. It’s not just the Xs and Os of it. But it’s such an important time in these kids’ lives.”
Millard’s hiring has been greeted by strong applause on social media from peers in the coaching community.
Amador Valley’s Danny Jones called it a “home run hire!” on Twitter.
Eric Coleman, the offensive coordinator at Garces High in Bakersfield, tweeted, “MV is getting a great leader, stand up guy with Impeccable character and (even) better human.”
With Foothill in the EBAL’s Valley Division for at least one more season, Millard won’t have any family feuds this fall.
Monte Vista isn’t scheduled to face Foothill.
“We’re not, which will probably be good for the household, Thanksgiving next year,” Millard said.