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An 'All-American Kid' Is Mourned

Friends remember Idaho's Eric McMillan, 19, from Murrieta Valley High, who died after being shot.

September 22, 2004|Howie Stalwick | Special to The Times

MOSCOW, Idaho — People often struggle to find words to describe a person who died young, but people at Murrieta Valley High in Southern California, and at the University of Idaho spoke at length Tuesday about their admiration for Eric McMillan.

McMillan, a redshirt freshman cornerback on the Idaho football team, died here early Monday, after he'd been shot at his off-campus apartment late Sunday afternoon.

McMillan, who was a starter for the 0-3 Vandals and had played in Saturday night's 49-8 loss at Washington State, was 19.

"He always had a smile," said Wally Clark, McMillan's coach at Murrieta Valley. "He never knew an enemy. He was an all-American kid."

"He was a great kid," said Nick Holt, USC's linebacker coach before replacing current UCLA offensive coordinator Tom Cable as head coach at Idaho after last season. "He had a great personality. He was fun to be around. Smart."

It is expected that murder charges will be filed as early as today against two Seattle brothers. Matthew R. Wells, 27, and James J. Wells, 25, are being held on $75,000 bail in jail at Colfax, Wash.

They were arrested Sunday night after a 150-mile chase had ended in central Washington.

Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear said police had told him there appeared to be no connection between the Wells brothers and McMillan.

Holt said he was unaware of any motive.

Clark said McMillan had been popular on and off the field at Murrieta Valley and had earned a 3.5 grade-point average in high school, overcoming a difficult upbringing to become a person students at the school "used as a yardstick."

Clark said Murrieta Valley teachers and coaches often sent McMillan gifts and e-mails at Idaho.

Teachers, coaches, school secretaries, parents of former teammates and pastors from McMillan's church gathered Monday morning at Clark's home after news of McMillan's death reached Murrieta.

Memorial services, football helmet stickers and a moment of silence at the next game are planned at Idaho and Murrieta Valley as tributes.

Clark said McMillan's No. 12 jersey might be retired at Murrieta Valley.

"If someone needed a son," Clark said, "they'd pick Eric McMillan."

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