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IT IS A RAINY TUESDAY IN AUGUST. TRENT MILLER, SITTING AT HIS OFFICE DESK, LOOKS AROUND TO SEE BOXES THAT ARE STILL UNPACKED FROM APRIL.
Miller just hasn’t had time to finish unpacking.
“Everybody wants to come in and talk football, talk about the team and the community,” Miller, who was hired on April 9 as Willis’ next head football coach, said. “They want to talk about where to eat and where not to eat. Former players, current players, future players. I still to this day haven’t had the chance to sit down and fully unpack everything in my office.”
The passion that the Willis community shows overall towards Wildkats’ athletics is something that Miller takes note of.
It is a town that has ballooned from a Class 4A high school to a Class 6A, playing alongside well established programs such as The Woodlands, Conroe, College Park and Oak Ridge.
Willis and their community want to compete in that group of power programs across all sports.
“The term that gets thrown around a lot with people in this town is they want to be relevant,” Miller said. “We’re trying to bring that mindset and that culture to this town that relevant is not the standard. The standard needs to be the No. 1 program in the State of Texas.”
Slowly but surely, Miller believes that they are changing that mindset. Their season-opening 73-14 victory over Bryan Rudder was a big step.
It was the first home game for Miller as the head coach of the Wildkats. A game that he will soon not forget, not because of the score or the video-game stats produced, but because of the community.
When the football team bus arrived at Berton A. Yates Stadium on August 26 at 4:30 p.m., Miller guessed there were around 1,500 fans to welcome them that had been tailgating for two hours prior to kickoff.
“It’s a one-horse town deal,” Miller said. “Everybody shuts down and comes to the game on Friday nights. Football is just a bigger deal in this town.”
The scene for Miller’s first game was right out of the movie Friday Night Lights. Fans began setting up for tailgating at 9 a.m. that morning. Tailgating started around 2:30 p.m. once the middle schools let out. Gates opened around 5:30 p.m. and as Miller and his team went out for their pregame warmups at 6 p.m. the stadium was nearly full.
As the game started, a line of fans waiting to get in could still be seen “wrapped around the stadium and to the back of the middle school”.
“That stadium was rocking,” Miller said. “It was standing room only. We’re talking about people lined up and down the fence and around the fieldhouse area just trying to see the game. It was an amazing feeling. It was really cool.”
Miller, his wife Lindsey, who teaches English at the high school, and sons Michael and Cole, who attend a middle and elementary school in Willis ISD, are still ingraining themselves into the community. So far, it has been a smooth transition.
The school Cole goes to shares a parking lot with Willis High, allowing Miller to drive his son to school every morning on a golf cart.
At the end of the day, Lindsey will pick them both up from school and it’s off to practice with dad and the Wildkats.
“They’re both on the practice field every day, so they’re hanging out with the boys on the field in practice,” Miller said. “Then, they get to hang out with them in the locker room and then they are all over the sidelines on Friday nights.
“The community knows my kids almost as well as they know me because they see us everywhere. We’re heavily involved. Our roots are building deeper within this town. The more we’re seen in public, the more welcoming people are towards us. It’s been a surreal and unbelievable experience so far.”
SOME HIGH SCHOOLERS JUST NEED THAT “THING” TO GET THEM ENGAGED.
That “thing” can change their perspective about everything. It can drive them to greatness. For Alyssa Platt, her “thing” is the Willis Sweethearts Drill Team.
“Being a part of the Sweethearts has greatly increased my personal responsibility,” the senior captain laughed. “I hate to say this, but I’m a procrastinator. Like bad. It’s just how I am. But being a part of something that is bigger than myself has changed who I am…for the better.”
Platt has been in the Willis ISD dance program since the seventh grade. She has matured over the years through hard work, dedication and accountability— the pillars of the Sweethearts Dance Team.
She has developed into a leader, culminating in her senior season as she was named the team’s Captain for 2022-23.
“You just have to push yourself,” Platt said. “I found out over the years that I’m so much more capable of accomplishing my goals than I thought I could be. All it took was for someone to tell me to do something. I took it from there. As a high school student, sometimes you just have to go for it and get out of your comfort zone.”
As her high school career wraps up in 2023, Platt has a plan. No procrastinating… a plan.
“I’m going to study marketing in college, and I will be opening my own business,” she said. “If not, I want to coach.”
Pay it forward, Platt. Pay it forward.