WALLINGFORD — Sheehan’s offense was special this football season. A prolific ground attack that also featured a potent aerial punch powered the Titans to the Class S state championship last month.
One of the masterminds behind the vaunted Sheehan offense was veteran assistant coach Pat Miller. The 2008 Sheehan grad has been the Titans offensive coordinator for the past four seasons.
That changed on Friday, when Miller accepted the head coaching job at Norwalk High School.
“I’m very excited,” Miller said. “This program has been on the rise for the last couple of years. It’s a competitive team in one of the best conferences in the state.
“I felt good as soon as I walked into the door. It’s a special place where a lot of exciting things can happen. I’m very excited to take over.”
Miller did say his departure is bittersweet because he loved his time at Sheehan. He was a player there, graduating in 2008, and served as an assistant under head coach John Ferrazzi over the last nine years.
“This has always been a dream of mine to be a head coach for as long as I could remember,” Miller said. “It’s tough to leave Sheehan. This has become a family for me and they’ve been supportive towards me.”
Miller told the Sheehan players the news on Friday afternoon following their team weightlifting session.
“It was super difficult,” Miller said. “I started tearing up immediately, but everyone was so supportive. They all congratulated me. It was so hard to do. They wished me well. I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”
Miller said he has learned so much from Ferrazzi over the years. Ferrazzi was named the state’s Football Coach of the Year on Sunday at the Connecticut High School Coaches Association All-State banquet.
“I don’t know what I did to deserve such a great experience at Sheehan,” Miller said. “Coach Ferrazzi is the best coach in the state. It was great to start my coaching career is such a special place.
“Coach Ferrazzi has been an open door for me. He’s always been a resource for me. Because of him, I’ve never stopped learning. My experience at Sheehan was great. I wish the program nothing but the best and, knowing Coach Ferrazzi, I know he will find someone better to replace me.”
Ferrazzi said it will be difficult to fill Miller’s shoes, but the staff promised the team it would get the best coach possible.
Ferrazzi noted that Miller was always fully committed to Sheehan football.
“When you talk about the grind and loving the grind, that’s Pat,” Ferrazzi said. “Doing these jobs the right way is very difficult. The work that it takes off the field to prepare and to apply to practice and the game is astronomical. Pat is one of those guys who’s willing to do whatever it takes in preparation to get it done. He works extremely hard at it year round. He lives and breathes football.
“A lot of people aren’t willing to do what he’s always been willing to do. He’s earned everything. He was given nothing. He’s really worked for it.”
Ferrazzi said Miller helped lift the Sheehan offense to great heights during his tenure as offensive coordinator.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Ferrazzi said. “We really built a strong run game under his tutelage. We’ve got two Walter Camp Player of the Year candidates. We’ve had Zach Davis go over 3,000 yards and Terrence Bogan go over 2,000 twice in a season.
“We’ve broke school records on offense in this four-year run. This year, scoring over 600 points and more than 5,400 yards on offense, I think the numbers and stats speak for themselves. His attention to detail in building our run game and building a solid foundation in our run game has everything to do with Pat’s effort, especially with the offensive line.”
At Norwalk, Miller inherits a 5-5 squad. Previous coach Sean Ireland stepped down in December.
“If there’s anyone who’s done it the right way and has put the work in to develop from when he started to coaching until now, it’s Pat,” Ferrazzi said. “If there’s any assistant coach to make the transition to head coach, it’s Pat. He’s going to do great.
“We’ve done so much work together and he’s one of the biggest reasons why we have come as far as we have come in the Sheehan program. Norwalk is getting a great one.”
This is the third Sheehan assistant coach that has gone on to become a head coach during Ferrazzi’s 15-year tenure. Miller joins Matt McKinnon (Wethersfield) and Gaitan Rodriguez (Torrington) in the Ferrazzi coaching tree.
“I hope it means we are doing something right around here,” Ferrazzi said. “It’s a special thing that coaches and players get recognized. I hope it means we are developing more than just the players, although the players are the most important. To have guys go on and lead their own programs, it’s something that I’m proud of now, especially with him becoming the third. Because Pat played for me, it makes it a little bit more special.
“I love him. I really wish the best for him.”
Miller, 29, lives in Meriden and works as a kids’ fitness instructor at Meriden’s Edge Fitness. Friday was Miller’s final act as a Sheehan coach.
“I will celebrate with my family tonight and then I will go to work tomorrow morning for Norwalk,” he said.
Miller said he’s proud of doing his part for a championship team and in the great numbers the Titan offense has produced, but he doesn’t want that alone to define his Sheehan legacy.
“I hope I’m remembered as someone who worked hard and showed love to his players,” Miller said. “I was always there for them and I hope I was a positive person there. That’s really what I hope I’m remembered for.”