Coach Spotlight: EJ Mills
Issue   |   Wed, 11/06/2013 - 01:04
Rob Mattson, Public Affairs Office
Coach Mills celebrates his 100th win after the victory Saturday against Trinity.

Q: Tell us about your early life and athletic background.
A: I grew up in Rochester, N.Y. and went to an all boys Catholic high school that actually went co-ed while I was there.
High school is where I really got into the game of football, but also the pageantry. We had great football tradition, and the sport was very important to the school.

I was actually also a baseball player in high school and then continued to play baseball throughout my time at Dayton Univ.
At that point in my life, my focus was on becoming a high school history teacher and coaching football and baseball.
Right after graduating I worked at Midlakes High School, where I taught social studies and coached there for two years.
I got my start in college coaching at SUNY Albany as a graduate assistant for basically no pay. It was a great opportunity for me because I was given a ton of responsibility my first year, and I also connected with Coach Siedlecki. I was the head JV coach my first year and then became the secondary coach my second year.

After that I moved on to Ramapo College where I became their defensive coordinator in 1992, but they dropped football after that year.

It was at that point that I came to Amherst and became the defensive coordinator for Coach Siedlecki. I held that position until he became the head coach at Yale Univ. in 1996.

I became the interim head coach in 1997 and went 7-1 before losing to Williams in the closing seconds. I’ve been here as the head coach ever since!

Q: What would you say drew you to Amherst?
A: To be honest, when I first came here I didn’t know all that much about Amherst. After Ramapo dropped their program I was looking for a job, and I loved coaching with Coach Siedlecki going back to my days at SUNY Albany.

I knew a little bit about the history of Amherst football and the Amherst-Williams rivalry, but I didn’t really know what to expect.

I was really floored by how beautiful the was, but I was really drawn to the kids and how serious they were about academics and football. After going through the league the first year and getting a sense for NESCAC rivalries I was hooked. Especially after experiencing the emotion of the game against Williams that year even in a bad loss, I knew this was the place for me.

Q: What was it like once you finally broke through with a championship in 2009?
A: We had been very close a couple of times to going undefeated, but ’09 was a special group. We had a bunch of amazing guys that worked their butts off. Every one of the games was ridiculously close, but we always found a way to win.

Q: Can you compare the ’09 team to the undefeated 2011 team?
A: 2009 was a little different because it was such uncharted waters, and we had gone into Williamstown three previous times and screwed it up.

In 2011, we absolutely dominated the whole season and went up to Williams that year knowing we would crush them, and we did.

Other than giving up that late touchdown on the Hail Mary, which is probably the thing I remember the most about the game, we played lights out. We played really well. Kevin Ferber ’12 especially played really well. It was an excellent team overall.

Q: Any thoughts on this season?
A: This is a great group to coach. They are a lot of fun, but they are very hard workers and have gutted out a number of tough victories.

We lost a tough game to Wesleyan, and we have to give them a lot of credit. While we made mistakes, we have to give them credit for that. This group has worked incredibly hard and has overcome a significant number of injuries and that was set up back, but a number of guys have stepped up.

Q: Thoughts about the upcoming game against Williams?
A: I’m just really excited for these guys. The seniors are playing their last game and we want to send them off right. We know Williams is a very good team. They lost in the last seconds to Trinity, almost beat Bates and had an opportunity to beat Wesleyan. They have lost some really close games and this is a very dangerous team that is capable on both sides of the ball. We need to play a very good game if we are going to beat them. This is their last game on Weston Field, and we know that we are going to have our hands full. We just need to have a good week of preparation.

Q: Can you point to the most rewarding or hardest thing about coaching?
A: I think the most rewarding thing about coaching is the relationships that you have with your players and coaches. The thing that you hope you are doing is teaching the guys a lot more than just the game of football. These are life lessons that I want them to take away.

One of the things that I preach is being consistent, which is saying that you are going to show up every day ready to go. I also preach that E=R, or effort equals results. Attitude is something that is very important to me because I believe that 10 percent of life is what happens to you and the other 90 percent is how you respond to what happens in life. Those are things that I constantly talk about and things that I lead by example.

The goals that I have for the guys in the program are to become the best person, student and athlete that they can be. I really want them to have a sense of work ethic and understand the important of a good work ethic as they move forward to become the best husband, father and whatever else they want to do. That’s where my personal satisfaction comes from. It is giving kids a little bit to think about as they enter the next phase of their lives in the workplace.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your family.
A: My wife Angela went to Amherst and was a Hitchcock Fellow in 1995 when we first met. She was coaching volleyball and basketball and we started dating in 1996. She became the interim head volleyball coach at Mount Holyoke and then at a prep school for a couple years before becoming the head coach at Trinity College and then Smith College before stopping two years ago. We have two boys, JB, 11, and Nate, 9. They go to Crocker Farms elementary and are in 6th and 4th grades respectively. They are sports fanatics and play football, basketball and baseball. I get to coach them in the spring for baseball which I really enjoy. They are all incredibly supportive of me. This can be a very tough job and I know that I couldn’t’ do it without them.

Q: Finally, do you have any post-football plans?
A: I really believe that there is no better place than Amherst for me. To me, coaching is teaching and educating and Amherst gives me the best environment to do that. I really like to be hands on in the coaching world, but I also want to impact guys off the football field. I’m very happy here, and I want to keep doing what we are doing here for a very long time.