Old School Bearcat - Don McMillan

One of the themes of Brian Kelly's short tenure at UC has been to reach out and connect with Bearcats of the past to embrace the tradition that is Bearcat football. With that in mind Bearcat Insider is doing our part to catch up with past Bearcats to bring you their stories.

A while back I caught up with one of the most interesting people I have ever met, former Bearcat Don McMillan.

 

Don attended UC just after WWII, at that time almost all college players were older than we would see today. Don was a 24 year old freshman in 1946.  Back in those days players went both ways, Don was a Quarterback and Defensive Back. UC's coach was NFL great Ray Notling for the first 3 years running mostly a full house backfield with a back in motion.

 

The 1946 season was memorable for Don and UC. On the schedule was defending Big 10 Champion Indiana, who returned 35 letterman that season. The Bearcats came away with the win against the Hoosiers and also beat Michigan State that season to go 9 -2. The season ended with UC's first ever bowl game, the Sun Bowl where they beat Virginia Tech (known as VPI).

 

In 1949 the Bearcats had a coaching change for Don's senior year. Coach Sid Gillman took over the program introducing an aggressive passing game. Coach Gillman is considered the Grandfather of the West Coast offense, Don McMillan very well may have been the first quarterback to run this offense.

 

The 1949 season ended in UC's second bowl victory, the Bearcats defeated Toledo in the Glass Bowl on a snowy cold day in Northern Ohio. Don recalled that it wasn't much a bowl game but it was probably more of a grudge match for Toledo. Prior to the start of the season UC and Toledo scrimmaged, in that era schools could play one pre-season game. The Bearcats dominated all 4 quarters, but both teams decided to play a 5-th quarter. UC went with all backups and lost the final quarter 13 – 0. The final quarter result seemed to embolden the Toledo faithful as if they had won the game so UC was given an invite to the post season Glass Bowl. UC dominated again and won.

 

After graduation from UC, Don went into coaching at the high school level. His coaching careen spanned 26 years with stops in Montpellier, Wapakoneta, and 22 years at Taylor (Three Rivers).

 

Outside of coaching Don also spent 32 years as a Bengal's statistician. He and Paul Brown became friends during his years with the Bengal's, he told me they often would sit in Coach Brown's office and talk football.

 

Considering Don had been a coach himself and played or worked for Ray Nolting, Sid Gillman, and Paul Brown I thought I would get his impression of Coach Kelly and his staff. He was very complimentary of the staff and Brian Kelly; he was particularly pleased to see the push to get past players involved.

 

Don's Bearcat pride is still running strong; He doesn't make it to Nippert these days for games but still follows closely. He expressed the pride that he felt during last years Rutgers game and laughingly admitted that the he shed a few tears of joy. I know he wasn't' the only one.


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