Rest in peace, Tommy McMillin
Published: July 4, 2012
His old teammate Troy Williams remembers the play to this day: Three yards short of the goal line, coach Jim Ferinden called pro split, sweep right, with tailback Tommy McMillin taking a pitchout hopefully around right end for the winning touchdown on the game’s last play.
“I remember blocking during that sweep play,” Williams said. “I think the prior play was a pass attempt.”
It was the 1989 season’s final regular-season Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools game, played between McMillin’s and Williams’ Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils and the Zama American Trojans on host Kinnick’s Berkey Field. The old Berkey Field, the one flanked on both sidelines by white-painted anchor chains stretching from goal line to goal line. The old Berkey Field, upon whose grounds the George I. Purdy Fitness & Sports Center stands today. Ferinden in his second season at the Red Devils helm. One of Kinnick’s patriarchs, Bob Rydelius, up in the booth announcing every play.
Not only did McMillin stave off several Trojans tacklers and nip the corner of the end zone to give Kinnick an 11th-hour 18-13 triumph that ended the season on a sweet note … McMillin & Co. helped set the stage for Kinnick’s 1990 campaign, the team’s most successful from the time the Kanto Plain league formed into its current structure in 1973.
Donn Rodriguez inherited McMillin’s tailback spot in that 1990 season, in which Kinnick went 5-0-1 and snapped Yokota’s then-Pacific-record 39-game winning streak with an unforgettable 47-6 romp on Oct. 5 in the first night game at Berkey since the 1982 season.
McMillin would go on to own a bar in Pacific Beach, Calif., called West End. Rodriguez would go on to work for McMillin as what he called his “weekend security, bar back, bartender, barbecuer, etc.”
It was in that backdrop that West End and San Diego lost one of its sons, McMillin, on Tuesday to kidney failure.
“Yo-Hi lost a great one today,” Rodriguez said in a Facebook message, describing the lasting friendships made by those living overseas, including Rodriguez and McMillin at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan:
“The only one who said, ‘We’d beat Zama first, then go after Yokota.’
“The only one who said, ‘I’m gonna open my own bar and you’re gonna head my security.’
“The only one who lived like there’s no tomorrow.
“It’s something unexplainable, you just have to have lived it. Small-town USA where everybody knows your name and your business. But we made it,” Rodriguez said.
McMillin was 40 and is survived by two daughters, Jen and Neisa.