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The ballad of a blocker
Bryan Millard always was, and still remains, a man of diverse tastes and talents.
Take the trip the former guard for the Seahawks has planned to the Seattle area later this month, when he’ll take part in a benefit concert to help with medical costs for longtime friend Neil Morris.
“One of my guitar-playing buddies, he’s kind of under the weather,” Millard said this week from Austin, where he played his college ball at the University of Texas and continues to live.
“So we’re going to have a little benefit for him in Woodinville, see if we can raise some money and pay a few doctor bills for him. So that will be a good time. A great guy. Just a great guy.”
That’s Millard, always looking for ways to look out for others.
That’s why he was among the most popular – and respected – players on those Seahawks team from 1984-91. And when it came to football, Millard was the epitome of the kind of player former coach Chuck Knox not only loved but sought out.
“Listen, I wasn’t the biggest, or fastest, or anything like that,” Millard said. “But I did the three things Chuck always asked for: Show up on time, practice hard and play your rear off on Sunday.
“My time with the Seahawks certainly opened the door for a lot of other things for me.”
|BLUE AND GREEN DREAM TEAM|
The Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team, as selected by the readers of Seahawks.com:
Like a berth on the franchise’s 35th Anniversary team. When the readers of Seahawks.com cast their votes, Millard received 758 to land one of the guard spots – opposite Steve Hutchinson, who got 1,411 votes; and instead of Chris Gray, who had 656 votes to finish third behind Millard.
Gray played longer (nine seasons) and more recently (1998-2006). He also made more starts (145, including a franchise-record 121 in a row from 1999-2006). But Millard, who started 99 games in eight seasons, was the choice.
“It’s a very cool honor,” Millard said. “As much as I enjoyed it, my dad and my children enjoyed it equally as much. So that was a pretty neat deal.
“Think about it. I wasn’t just an offensive lineman; I was an offensive lineman from 20 years ago. So to have the fans remember me is very, very humbling.”
This “music thing” that will bring him back to Seattle is nothing new for Millard, who began buying vintage guitars while playing for the Seahawks and estimates he has roughly two dozen hanging on his hallway wall or in storage.
His musical tastes always have run from, well, as he puts it, “Country and western. And country and western.” And at the top of his list of favorite performers is Merle Haggard, who he also got to know during his stay with the Seahawks.
Once asked to name his favorite country and western songs, he said, “Any five by The Hag.”
Asked to name those five, he moaned, “I can’t do that. How can you pick just five songs by The Hag?”
It’s kind of like picking a 35th Anniversary team and being limited to just two guards. But Millard is one of them for reasons that were obvious to his former teammates and coaches.
“Bryan runs into people and knocks them down over and over again,” Chick Harris, the Seahawks’ running backs coach from 1983-91 who now is with the Houston Texans, once said. “Our backs love to run behind him because they know there’s going to be a big collision in front of them.”
As Curt Warner, the leading rusher on those teams, put it at the time, “If Bryan played in Chicago, New York or Los Angeles, he’d be a Pro Bowl player.”
Instead, Millard wasn’t even drafted out of Texas and spent two seasons blocking for Hershel Walker with the New Jersey Generals of the old USFL before signing with the Seahawks in 1984. But by the time he was finished – and before the Seahawks had used first-round draft choices on left tackle Walter Jones (1997) and Hutchinson (2001) – any discussion of the best offensive lineman in franchise history usually began and frequently ended with Millard.
“Bryan’s thing is, when you work, work hard,” Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent once said. “He’s intense, and he takes a lot of pride in his performance. He’s very protective of his teammates, more so than anyone else on the team. If there’s any indication of a late hit or a cheap shot, Bryan will be the first one pulling a guy off you.”
Speaking of work, Millard has had a few jobs since leaving football. He owned a drug company after retiring from the game, but sold it several years ago. He then coached at Sam Houston State in Huntsville. He recently took a job with an asset management firm.
“It’s something I’ve been involved in, but just never worked in,” he said. “It’s kind of fun.”
But it’s obvious where his passion remains rooted. There’s football, and his former Seahawks teammates dubbed him “Bevo,” after the Texas mascot. There’s family, with one daughter, LaShea, a senior-to-be at Angelo State; and the other, Lexi, a sophomore-to-be at UT-Arlington. There’s music. He bought his first guitar in 1985, from an ad in the newspaper. The rest followed with the help of Dave Head, who also gave Millard an appraisal of that first purchase.
“There was this long-haired fella behind the bar and I said, ‘Hey, I bought this guitar. Did I get (screwed)?’ ” Millard recalled. “The guy goes, ‘How much did you pay for it?’ I said, ‘Seventy bucks.’
“Then he goes, ‘Well, how badly could you have gotten (screwed)? You only paid 70 bucks.’ ”
That exchange led to Millard bonding with Head and also meeting Morris, as well as becoming a collector of vintage guitars.
“Neil and Dave, they’re complete opposites,” Millard said. “But to this day, they’re two of the best friends I have in the whole world. They’re just great, great people.”
They’re also an opposite-ends-of-the-spectrum pair who have helped turn Millard from a guy who had one $70 guitar to a connoisseur who now owns many that are worth substantially more.
“I wish I was a better guitar player,” Millard said. “But the minute I get to be a better guitar player, I’m going to have some cool guitars to play.”