Mills still making
an impact in football

The Islanders' consultant
wants to bring football to
Oahu's junior colleges

By Nick Abramo

Chuck Mills has been around the block a few times in his football coaching career.

At 73, he's a pipe-smoking, gentlemanly fellow who observes practices from afar, looking more like the team doctor than a former assistant with the Kansas City Chiefs.

These days, he's a consultant with the Hawaiian Islanders of arenafootball2 and is trying to help bring football to the junior college level on Oahu.

"It could be a little better than club football," he said. "If someone stepped up with a million bucks, the league could run forever on the interest. If they kept it on Oahu, there would be no need to pay for transportation. The only thing I would ask for from the colleges is a field to practice on and that they verify every two weeks that a kid is carrying a full load."

Mills lends his expertise to anyone willing to listen. Count Islanders director Carl Vincenti, director of community relations Jesus Salud and head coach Chad Carlson among the converts, who have literally called Mills "the man" at one point or another.

They've benefited from Mills' wealth of knowledge, and Mills doesn't care whether they take his advice to heart or throw it away.

"Being a consultant is a great spot for second guessing. You can criticize things that you know nothing about and then walk away," Mills joked.

He is also "the man" in Japan. In 1971, as the head coach of Utah State, he took the first college (non all-star) team to play overseas against a Japanese college.

Since then, he's been a big part of the development of college football there, and because of his efforts, Japan's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy is named the Mills Trophy.

"(The trophy is) big in Japan, but not so hot in the U.S., and because of the role I play over there, they won't let me coach because I can't do anything (such as losing) to jeopardize and tarnish the image of something they hold in high regard," Mills said. "They also don't want me aligned with any particular school, so having the trophy named after me is kind of a left-handed honor. They've got the same situation in the U.S. and it's called getting fired."

Mills served as athletic director at the Coast Guard Academy for 10 years, and after many years out of coaching, he took on the added responsibility of head football coach in 1997. The team was picked to finish low in the pack, but ended up winning the conference championship, and he had the time of his life.

He and his staff of former NFL assistants had five Super Bowl rings among them.

"The players remarked that it was the first time they played a season without getting yelled at," said Mills, who earned a Super Bowl ring as an assistant with the Chiefs in the 1966-67 season.

His time in the NFL was "glorious."

"We were winning and it was a great staff of really good guys," he said. "Hank (Stram) was a good guy to work for, different, but he let his assistants do their thing. He was as smart as a whip and had a good-sized ego.

"I was always amazed at how intense the players were when it came time to play. Some loafed in practice, some complained they were working too hard, but when it came time to run a play, it was all out. I learned that some players don't need to do things the right way because they're so gifted it doesn't make any difference."

Mills moved to Hawaii several years ago after stepping down as the Coast Guard AD. He has held head coaching jobs at Wake Forest, Southern Oregon, Pomona College, Indiana (Pa.) University and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. He wrote a book, "The Fifth Down," which was published in 2000. It's a gathering of his diverse thoughts on football and life.

"It's toilet reading," he said. "You can pick it up, put it down and not lose your place. It's 20 years' worth of stuff, little notes from here and there that built up."

Mills is also involved in an arena football league being organized in Japan.

"It could start in a year or two," he said. "It's pretty well under way structure-wise and it's more apt to happen than not."

Mills said Ted Suzuki is organizing Japan's arena league, which could eventually compete along with af2 or the parent Arena Football League.

Suzuki paid the way for three players -- Kohei Satomi, Rikiya Ishida and Katsuhiro Motono -- to visit Hawaii and play for the Islanders this season.

"He believes the world is going to be better if young people from all over know each other," Mills said, "and he's using football as a vehicle."

Hawaiian Islanders

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