Staying true to his team philosophy that “ten men block so one can run,” the only awards given to Tustin Tiller Football players at the Tustin High School Football Banquet centered around athletes with exemplary grade point averages and awards from The Empire League, All-County Teams, and All-CIF. That’s right, Coach Miller does not bestow an MVP award or “The Most Improved,” or any individual accolades. Tiller football is a team effort, and he’s serious about that.
Tustin Tiller football players and fans gathered in the gym on Sunday night for a generous banquet provided by The Tiller Touchdown Club. Tustin High ASB students served steak and a baked potato and homemade side dishes in an event wholly “Tiller” where kids, staff, alumni, and a few dedicated parents worked together to provide the team with an event to celebrate the team’s hard work. As CIF – SS Southwest Division 2011 Champions I expected more pomp surrounding that victory, but as Miller told me the day after the win, “By six o’clock last night I already started thinking about next year.” And the players, besides posing next to the CIF Championship ice sculpture, followed their coach’s lead and remained stoic.
When individual team players walked the stage to accept their team certificate Miller praised each one, pointing out the young man’s strengths. For some he would add, “A few more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and time in the weight room, and we’ll see this young man playing Division I football in two years.”
A testament to the dedication of Miller’s football program, former Tiller players, Beau Bell, Zack Bell, Chris Chester, DeShaun Foster, and Ricky Miller, some accompanied by their wives, spent Sunday night eating steak prepared in the cafeteria kitchen while sitting on metal chairs in the Tustin High School gym. The alumni want to watch the legacy continue.
Beau, and DeShaun, both former NFL players, and Chris currently playing for the Washington Redskins, stood as examples for the young Tillers of what is possible if they listen to their coach and “Eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, work hard, and believe in the program,” as Coach Miller says.
DeShaun Foster, former running back for the Carolina Panthers and the San Francisco 49ers, pulled aside graduating Tiller running back Tyler Siudzinski to offer him advice on his upcoming decision—where to accept a scholarship. Not many high school football players have that kind of guidance and encouragement.
To instill Miller’s future legacy, Ricky Miller and his wife Mariana brought one-year-old Ricky Junior, and I snapped their picture with Coach Miller because they want little Ricky to play for Miller, and why not? The man will only be 81. There’s time.