A player, a coach, a teacher mourned

At 6 feet 5 inches and well over 250 pounds, John Miller appeared larger than life. But it was the impression he left on those whose lives he touched as a high school coach that was even bigger than the former NFL lineman.?A gentle giant,” said Gary Molea, the Lynn English athletic director who played for Miller at St. Mary?s.?He was a big guy in a kid?s life,” said Attorney Kevin Calnan, who played football for Miller at St. Mary?s before graduating in 1972. “He was an NFL lineman, and if you can picture a bunch of high school kids in the field, he had a big position in your life when you played for him. The head coach for any high school player gets a special position. And John was all of that.”Miller, a former defensive lineman for the Washington Redskins and Green Bay Packers and the football coach at St. Mary?s from 1967-1982 and at Revere High from 1983-1986, died Wednesday at his home. He was 81.There will be a wake Friday from 4-8 p.m. at Vazza Beechwood Funeral Home in Revere, and the funeral Mass will be Saturday at noon at Immaculate Conception Church, also in Revere.A four-year starter at Boston College, where he was a three-time All-East selection, Miller was elected a captain his senior year, when he earned All-America honors for the Eagles. As a sophomore, he was awarded the prestigious O?Melia Award, presented annually to the most outstanding player in the BC-Holy Cross game. Miller was inducted into the BC Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 1992 and into the St. Mary?s Hall of Fame in 2014.Miller was born in Lowell and attended Keith Academy in that city before BC. Following his four-year NFL career, he and his wife, Norma, returned to her native Revere, where Miller began a 35-year career teaching social studies at Revere High in 1963.He later became an assistant coach at BC before moving on to head coaching positions at St. Mary?s, Don Bosco and Revere High.Ray McDermott played for Miller at St. Mary?s before graduating in 1972, and later succeeded Miller as the Spartans? coach.?He really was a great guy to me and a great help to me in my younger years,” McDermott said.?I think I learned how to treat high school kids as a coach ? just how to react to them, how to get them motivated, whether it be joking with them or whatever it was.?I would kind of adapt what he would do to get me going, if it was a joke or if it was a kick in the butt, just different ways to motivate kids and treat kids. I thought he was always fair with all of his players, whether you were the best player on the team or the last player on the team. He just encouraged participation; go to practice every day and you were going to get an opportunity one way or another.”Molea played for Miller at St. Mary?s before graduating in 1976 and later joining his coaching staff for a year at Revere High.?We actually beat Winthrop that year,” Molea said. “We didn?t win a game all year, but we did beat Winthrop on Thanksgiving and that kind of made our whole season, especially for him being a Revere guy, teaching over there all those years and living there. So I was fortunate to get to play for him and work for him.?He definitely was a man of character, respect. You always respected him as a coach and a person. I think that was something that, as a teenager, I got from him and it carried over in my position now and as a football coach. You want that from the kids and that?s one thing I know, we looked up to him. We respected him.”That respect was mutual.?He was dedicated to the program,” Calnan said of Miller?s years at St. Mary?s. “He was a football guy. He coached knock-down, drag-out football. He was a very good guy. He was a teacher. He was a Catholic guy and he reflected – unknowing at the time – but he reflected what St. Mary?s sought to bring out in people and the kinds of people that they wanted us to be.?Before our games – you see games today and everyone?s jumping around – he came around and said the Hail Mary and he used to end the prayer with ?Our

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