It appeared that Keith's life finally was headed in the right direction. But in the summer before his senior year, he threw a party, which turned rowdy, while his parents were out of town. Two days later, Paddie kicked him out of the house.
"I said, 'Mom, are you serious?' " Keith recalls. "And then I totally destroyed my room. I beat up everything while she and my stepfather watched. I felt that if I wasn't going to get to live there anymore, nobody else would either. And I never went back there after that."
Keith shared a dilapidated apartment over Main Street Liquors in downtown Pleasanton with another brother, Tony, a house painter. For dinner Keith ate at a local grocery store. He would pretend to be shopping and, when the employees weren't looking, would pull lunch meat and bread out of their wrappings and gulp them down. To treat himself, he stole T-bone steaks, stuffing three at a time into his pants.
Six weeks into the football season, Keith's fortunes took another turn for the worse. He was kicked off the Foothill team for getting involved in a fight during a game. He considered joining the Marines, but Balavich persuaded him to attack his problems head-on. He took Keith on drives through West Oakland, a high-crime area, pointing out that no matter how bad things seemed, there was always somebody who was worse off.
Keith studied diligently, and in the spring of 1980, after numerous conversations with Balavich, then-Washington State coach Jim Walden decided to offer the kid a scholarship. To make sure he would graduate from high school, Keith moved in with Balavich for three months and received special tutoring.
Millard came into his own at Washington State. He was moved from tight end to defensive tackle his sophomore year and eventually became an All-Pac-10 selection. But while he was relieved to have put greater distance between himself and his mother, his anger stayed with him in Pullman. He got into dozens of fights during his college career—on the football field, at fraternity parties, in local bars. As a junior, revved up on a cheap liquor called Mad Dog 20-20s, he coldcocked the president of the Kappa Sigma frat house in a dispute over who would have first dibs on a pizza. He was convicted of simple assault in the fourth degree and spent 15 days in the county jail, in a seven- by seven-foot cell with a toilet and a small bed that hung from the wall by chains.
"Time literally stopped," Millard says. "I lost 25 pounds. I didn't want anybody to see me. I read a lot of religious books that friends had given me about people who'd been through rough times and had found God."
But jail time didn't bring religion to Millard. After the Vikings made him the 13th pick in the 1984 NFL draft, the volatile combination of alcohol and his violent temper led to further brushes with the law. In one incident, a few days before the opening of the Vikings' 1986 training camp, police were called to a Bloomington, Minn., hotel at 4:45 a.m. after Millard refused a security officer's request to quiet down. According to Millard, five cops descended on his room. One took out his nightstick and another undid the latch on his holster. Recalls Millard, "I said, 'You guys think you're such bad asses. Take your badges and your guns off, and we'll see who's more powerful.' "
Even his marriage on Valentine's Day 1987 to Sallie, whom he had met at Washington State and later lived with for two years, didn't slow him down. Millard didn't shape up until his second drunk-driving arrest in less than a year—he wasn't convicted of DWI in either incident—when he was clocked going 73 mph in a 40-mph zone at 12:51 a.m. on Jan. 22, 1990, while rushing home to pack for his trip to the Pro Bowl. He pleaded guilty to speeding and careless driving and paid a $625 fine. But while reading letters from irate fans and members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Millard was struck by harsh words from a woman who asked how he would feel if his son, Dustin, then two, was killed by a drunk driver plowing through neighborhoods at 73 mph.
"I started crying," Millard says. "I had accomplished so much with my life, and I was absolutely blowing it. I was embarrassing my family and friends. I said, This is enough. Just grow up."