Auditions usually don’t last for two months. They’re typically far shorter than that. Ellis Miller is one of the lucky ones.
From now until the end of June, the 34-year-old Northwest V.R. Eaton football defensive coordinator is the football program’s interim head coach. He must demonstrate to the Northwest hierarchy that not only can he handle this assignment but convince it to remove the interim tag.
The clock ticks.
“I’ve wanted to be a head coach ever since I was 4 years old, so I know the opportunity that I have,” Miller said. “Head coaching jobs are so hard to get anymore. I’m going to do whatever I can.”
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Miller takes over a budding program from Brad Turner, who helped open the high school and built the football program from scratch in 2015. On May 1, Turner moved over to the district’s position as coordinator of athletics and physical education.
I’m not going to lie. The first day, I was nervous.
- Ellis Miller, on becoming the Eaton interim football coach
Players apparently didn’t balk at the move. They and Miller started together. They know each other. Familiarity brought comfort and confidence.
“I’m not going to lie,” Miller said. “The first day, I was nervous. But then I realized that a lot of things are similar. I just have some extra duties. I think I have good relationships with 99.9 percent of the kids in the program. The offensive kids were a little nervous. I’m not going to load up the defense. Nothing’s changed.”
Eaton’s spring football season concludes on Saturday with the spring game on the campus. Miller is putting the finishing touches on four weeks where this program is one year older and will enjoy its first senior class.
Expectations to make the postseason are high this fall considering the then first-year varsity program played White Settlement Brewer for a playoff berth in the final week of the 2016 season. It didn’t go well as the Eagles lost handily, 48-14. Yet first-year programs really shouldn’t be in the postseason conversation anyway.
Miller has been in the industry for 12 years and knows the Northwest ISD. He was an assistant at Justin Northwest under Bill Patterson. He also worked for Hal Wasson at Southlake Carroll.
When Miller interviewed for the defensive coordinator spot at Eaton, he sold Turner on his way of creating an offseason program that will maintain a culture of never settling. Carroll has its famous Dragon Maker offseason program, which is essentially a boot camp. Miller introduced the Eagle Maker, where coaches demand that players keep thinking and analyzing while negotiating physical fatigue. It has a mixture of ideas and techniques he acquired at both locations mixed with his own style.
“Coach Turner got excited,” Miller said. “He trusted me to do what I thought would help this program. I think I picked up a little of everything from Bill, Hal and Brad. Bill was a leader with a big stick. Everybody knew he was in charge.
“Hal was similar, but charismatic and very thoughtful. Brad had a way with connecting with players and coaches. He made sure everybody knew where he was coming from. He was on their level.”
Resumes from prospective coaches have already found their way to Northwest ISD athletic director Joel Johnson’s desk. The job hasn’t even been posted.
There is a lot to like about this job. The talent pool shouldn’t lapse. There’s a 50/50 chance Eaton is going to stay in Class 5A when the 2019 realignment is released. If Eaton stays 5A, then it could be a contender. This part of Tarrant County is where the growth continues.
Beyond blowing the whistle, Miller has to demonstrate in June he can handle the administrative duties. There’s new equipment being delivered. The summer performance course is starting. The youth football camps are not far behind. Handle those deftly and a 30-year-old dream could come true.
“The most important thing is putting our kids on the right path and producing a good product,” Miller said. “We’re going to be organized and have a plan.”