Millard was born in Sioux City, Iowa, the second of Duke and Judy Millard's four children. When he was four, an accident turned the family upside down. Duke, then 24 and working in a slaughterhouse, was badly cut while butchering a steer. The gash in his left arm took almost 900 stitches. While Duke was recuperating, the family moved to Storm Lake, Iowa, 65 miles east, and Duke bought a small roadside restaurant. The family lived in a rundown four-room bungalow. "I called it the Sugar Shack," says Bryan. "I didn't know any better."
Duke eventually returned to the meatpacking industry, working his way up to plant manager as the family hopscotched around Iowa, Kansas and Texas. Bryan was a shy, overweight child who wore horn-rimmed glasses and corrective shoes. "My mom called me 'husky,' " he says, "but I was fat and uncoordinated. That's what a Slurpee and three candy bars before supper will do."
When Bryan was in the sixth grade, the family moved to Dumas, a farming and ranching community 45 miles north of Amarillo, in the heart of the Texas panhandle. The town was mad for football. More than 3,000 fans would pack the local stadium on Friday nights to watch Dumas High play. Swept up by that spirit, Bryan joined the Hillcrest Hawks elementary school team, and by high school, he had made himself into an all-district offensive tackle and an all-state defensive lineman. He had even more success in track and field: Millard won the state class AAA shot put championship as a senior with a throw of 61'7".
Every Division I football school in the state recruited Millard. He chose Texas because he had so much fun on his recruiting visit. "John Mize, an assistant coach, brought a twin-engine plane to pick me up," says Millard. "That was a big deal. Why, the Dumas Airport only has a wind sock. Because of fog, we got to Austin late. When we finally arrived at the stadium, Steve Massey, a defensive tackle who was my escort for the weekend, screamed, 'Mize, where the hell have you been? My liver's on fire. I need a beer.' I thought, This guy is a player?
"After a few beers, we went to a Jerry Jeff Walker concert. I ate more chili peppers than I'd ever seen in my life. After that, we went to a game preserve and shot a pronghorn antelope. We took it over to the football dorm and hung it in the shower. It was the wildest night ever."
Millard became a starter in his junior season, and the next year he made first-team All-Southwest Conference. In January 1983, the New Jersey Generals of the then brand-new USFL made Millard their 12th-round pick in the draft. " Chuck Fairbanks, the Generals' coach, called," says Millard. "I asked, 'Where's New Jersey?' He said, 'It's next to New York.' I said, 'Do they have country music up there?' "
Millard signed a two-year, $140,000 contract with the Generals. At training camp in Orlando, Fla., he was given $5 a day for meals. The first $15 he earned hangs in a frame in his office at home.
"My first year," he recalls, "in a game against the Washington Federals at Giants Stadium, I blew out my knee. My season was over. On the way to the hospital, my throat felt parched, so I told the ambulance driver to pull up to a bar. I gave him $10 to buy me a six-pack. Hey, they don't allow beer at the hospital unless your wife has just had a baby.
"In 1984 we played the Blitz in Chicago on Memorial Day," he recalls. "It was rainy and freezing cold. Our equipment guy didn't have any long-sleeve shirts or sideline jackets. So he went to a sporting-goods store and bought some windbreakers. But he only gave them to the guys he liked. The stands were nearly empty. We had to I whisper in the huddle so the defense wouldn't hear what we were saying."
When his Generals contract expired in July 1984, Millard signed as a free agent with the Seahawks. He wallowed through the '84 season as a reserve guard and tackle. By year's end, he had played 38 games in 11 months. "He'd come home, sit in a chair and be out," says Connie. Only an expanded 49-man roster—a result of the 1982 players' strike and the threat of the USFL—kept Millard on the team. "That's the reason I'm in the NFL today," says Millard. "If not for that, I'd be back in Dumas, working in the slaughterhouse." Two years later Millard became the first-string right guard.