And now, the rest of the story ... almost
Forty-five column inches is a long story for a daily newspaper. Unless, of course, you are Daily Sentinel features writer Rachel Sauer, who calls that a brief and considers Michener and Tolstoy “wonderful short-story writers.”
That kind of real estate is rare at a daily newspaper, where Shakespeare would have pulled out the rest of his hair after an editor staring at a small news hole asked, “Bill, can you make that sonnet a haiku instead?”
Anyway, my story on Cedaredge football coach Brandon Milholland in Sunday’s Portrait section was 45 inches long, a length I limited it to after blowing past the 30 inches my managing editor “suggested.”
But I’m telling you — and somewhere Sauer is smiling — that wasn’t half of what I wanted to write. So many people said so many interesting things about Milholland, and I wanted to empty the notebook. I still can’t — my soul-less sports editor won’t let me — but there are a few things that, dang it, I’m putting in print.
The really, really short story
First, I admit, I could have limited the Milholland story to a paragraph and told you all you needed to know about the man who guided Cedaredge to its first-ever state football championship last fall. It would have been worded:
When asked if he had time to answer questions about Cedaredge High School football coach Brandon Milholland, Bruins senior quarterback/safety Dante Markley said, “For him, I’d give you anything.”
Not quite “Jesus wept,” but I didn’t need to ask another question. I understood immediately Markley’s loyalty to and respect for Milholland and why the Bruins won the Class 1A state title.
Source of that work ethic
Milholland has gotten his players to buy into working harder than they realized they could, a principle he understands because he’s lived it.
Randy Brown, the former Cedaredge High athletic director who hired Milholland, knew that about Milholland going back to their days together at Mesa State College, where Milholland played football and Brown played baseball.
Brown said Milholland’s work ethic was driven partially by the need to prove wrong those who doubted his ability because of his height. Milholland is 5-foot-8, but he started at quarterback during his final two seasons at Mesa.
Brown also said Milholland firmly believes in the approach of former Mesa coach Joe Ramunno, which was: “We’re going to run your butts off, you’re going to get in shape, and you’re going to be the best in-shape team on the field. You’re going to be disciplined. You’re going to play smart.”
Brown’s analysis hit the bull’s-eye, as Milholland said, “Playing ball for Joe, I don’t know if I ever worked as hard in my life. I don’t plan to ever work that hard again.”
Sizing up the man
Milholland’s height remains a source of fun for friends.
Cedaredge assistant football coach John Kuemmerlin, when asked to sum up Milholland, began with: “I’m sure you already have short.”
Milholland’s football coach at Central High School, Vern McGee, began his assessment of Milholland as a prep quarterback with: “As you can tell, he wasn’t the tallest kid around.”
McGee, though, was prefacing a greater point: “That kind of played in his favor, I think. He kind of played with a chip on his shoulder.”
Milholland acknowledged his height drew doubters, and that doubled his determination.
“When I was in elementary school,” he said, “my friends called me ‘Big B’ because I was the little guy who didn’t act like the little guy. ... I have always had a problem with people telling me I can’t or couldn’t do something.”
Why did I ... ?
On the other hand, be careful what you tell people they can do, such as: You can shave my head if you win the state title.
The Bruins got Milholland to agree to it during the run up to the championship, but three weeks into January, he still had his normal hairdo. He foolishly thought, “Maybe they forgot.”
That was hoping against hope. On Jan. 22, several players showed up with the clippers.
One reason the shears didn’t come out sooner is Milholland’s wife, Sara, made the players hold off until after family photos were taken during the holiday season. But she knew the day was coming. Milholland’s 9-year-old daughter, Kimberley, however, got a surprise.
“My daughter was, ‘Oh my gosh, Daddy, why did you do that?’ ” Milholland said.
Kimberley also learned what any man who shaves his head knows: It’s kind of fun to run your hand over that stubble field for the next few weeks.