OAKLEAF - Football coaching is such a time-consuming job is all Oakleaf High interim head football coach Marcus Miller would say when asked about his decision to name himself the interim coach after …
OAKLEAF - Football coaching is such a time-consuming job is all Oakleaf High interim head football coach Marcus Miller would say when asked about his decision to name himself the interim coach after the resignation of Frank Garis a month ago.
“My philosophy in my three years here as athletic director, coach and guy in the halls, has been every day to come to work and see if I can make the day one that makes an Oakleaf students day better,” said Miller, who gave up his head wrestling coach slot last year to focus on his athletic director duties. “When coach Garis came to my office and said he was leaving was in June and there was some trepidation for me to get back into the head coach game. My question to myself was I knew it would be tough to find someone quickly that would maintain the momentum of the program and what was the pool available.”
Miller joins Keystone Heights High football coach Chuck Dickinson as the only two county football coaches that also are also athletic directors. Dickinson took over for Walt Darty in 2015 and is one of the longest coaching positions; 30-plus years, in the county with Fleming Island High’s Damenyum Springs a decades-long coach with a recent nod to head coach. Springs teaches Physical Education.
“My advise to coach Miller is to manage the time,” said Dickinson. “At Keystone Heights, the school size is much smaller. When coach Darty resigned, I was always reading the FHSAA rules and regulations and all that and it was a smooth transition.”
Miller noted that his first year as athletic director came with the COVID restrictions and school lockdowns.
“I figured if I could survive year one with COVID, I could handle anything,” said Miller. “I already had the head coach experience and I think we have guys right here that will be able to fill the spot next year.”
Miller’s first coaching choice duty in year one was girls basketball coach Fred Cole from Orange Park High.
“Final Four in year one,” said Miller. “We met the team on a Google Meets session because of COVID. He was the first hire.”
From there, Miller’s objective was simple.
“I have always had the objective of how do I put great people around the kids,” said Miller. “Every day I like to see that our kids, in all endeavors here at Oakleaf, are happy that they came here, played here on a sports team and graduated.”
Miller, an Oakleaf assistant football coach and a former head coach at Englewood High in Jacksonville, has always tapped into his dad, Mark, as his model for coaching.
“I remember when I was in Pop Warner in Indiana and he was coach, then high school and he was a coach and even after I left, he was coach somewhere,” said Miller. “For 31 years, it was our life and his tenure, to me, was a mark that made an impression because my dad coached against the same other coaches for 20-25 years.”
Miller admitted that his macromanaging of sports outside of football and wrestling are less his intention because of his confidence in those coaches; long time tennis coach David Martin as one, former baseball coach Chris Lannom for 11 years and basketball coach Jason Price, the only coach of basketball at Oakleaf, is solid.
“Those coaches have already earned my trust because they have been outstanding for a long time, before and during my time here,” said Miller. “I don’t overlook the success they provide.”
One coach that Miller had close ties to was former head wrestling coach Rory Roderick, who recently left Oakleaf to pursue more family matters with a second child on the way.
“He was a student here, a wrestler that was a great athlete, a college wrestler and guy who came back to his roots,” said Miller. “He was like the perfect guy to come in a build a dynasty for us. Then life. I wish him well and will never second guess a family decision, but man I loved having him here.”
Roderick, who took over last year, built the Oakleaf wrestling up enough to win a first-ever district wrestling title for Oakleaf before leaving.
“Right now, I have the perfect storm of football with a team built by coach Garis that is chock full of talent and ready to go,” said Miller. “I added some of my own wrinkles, but we have a solid foundation and I’ve known my seniors for four years on and off the field.”
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here