By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Director of Communications
New University of New Mexico assistant football coach Charles McMillian always has been drawn to rebuilding programs. At first, the attraction was born out of pride.
Now it is born out of faith.
Head coach Bob Davie hired McMillian to coach defensive backs. McMillian arrived on staff with fellow assistant Barry Sacks as the coaching staff continues the process of overhauling the defense.
“Every place that I’ve started, it’s been a rebuilding process,” says McMillian, who’s coached at schools such as Texas A&M, TCU, Boise State, Cincinnati, Navy and Indiana. “So the opportunity to come here and help build a program from the bottom up with coach (Bob) Davie is what interested me about UNM.
“When I was at TCU, New Mexico was a school that won. For the Lobos not to be winning – it’s a challenge to change that, and I like challenges.”
McMillian takes over a unit that experienced its share of growing pains in 2013. UNM allowed 259.4 passing yards per game and secured just four interceptions last season – and just two from the secondary.
It’s an assignment that appears daunting from the outside looking in. But McMillian doesn’t scare that easily.
As a member of the A&M staff in 2010, McMillian was getting ready to go on a recruiting trip prior to an Aggies’ game against Arkansas. According to a 2011 article on Aggieathletics.com, McMillian woke up at 4 a.m. to use the restroom.
He went back to sleep but woke up a couple of hours later with blood on his body and on the sheets of his bed. Not knowing what happened, McMillian went to the bathroom again and was shocked when he saw blood in his urine.
Initially, doctors could not diagnose the problem, as McMillian continued to urinate blood, he told Aggieathletics.com. Finally on the next Wednesday, McMillian underwent a CAT scan in the Texas A&M team doctor’s offense and found out he had a malignant tumor in his kidney.
“It scared me, Coach Sherman (Aggies coach Mike), our staff and my family,” McMillian said just prior to the start of the Lobos’ spring practice. “You always think that these things happen to other people, but no, I had that situation. Now, you’re talking about death and leaving people behind.”
The news rocked McMillian mostly because he had a 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son at the time.
“I wasn’t afraid of death,” he said, “but I didn’t want to leave my children without their father.”
Fortunately, the CAT revealed the tumor in its infant stages. What started out as talk of removing McMillian’s entire kidney ended up as surgery removing about 10 percent of his kidney. What remains a mystery to this day about the ordeal is that the blood in his urine apparently was unrelated to the tumor.
The blood disappeared from his urine in the week after the Arkansas game, but doctors never figured out why the blood was present in the first place.
“It humbled me,” McMillian said. “I give thanks to God that I found out way early, enough time to where I didn’t have to have any chemo or radiation treatment. It just taught me to be thankful. It’s kind of hard to explain, but I see life totally different. The person that you see now is the person I’ve always been, but it just made me a better person.”
McMillian now approaches his coaching with the understanding that he has to capture his players’ faith in him, just as his was captured.
“I try to teach kids more than just football; I teach them about life,” McMillian said. “Once they relate to you, the trust factor is built and they understand how to become a better person in life, not just football.
“You’ve got to have that foundation and trust. If they trust you, they’ll run through a brick wall for you. Then I can coach players a little harder because they know I care and I have their back.”
His coaching mantra is simple – literally.
“Something I say a lot is two plus two equal four; it’s that simple,” he said. “Sometimes as coaches, we make things more complicated than they should be. We need to keep things simple so the kids will be able to play fast. If they can explain to you what you’ve just taught them, it’s simple.”
McMillian also has faith that the Lobos can win and is hoping the community jumps on board with the team so that it will experience the journey along with the team that will make success that much sweeter.
“Our kids deserve a fan base, whether winning or losing, that still cares about them, still loves them,” he said.
The Lobos practiced for the first time on Branch Field at University Stadium on Thursday. The stadium practice was due to the wind gusts during practice that made the camera lifts for the video staff to record practice too dangerous to raise.
The team again did some live hitting and will have more live contact on Saturday.