SNOQUALMIE — The Millen boys have always been fighters. They have the DNA of a quarterback, and competition might as well be in that genetic makeup, too.
It might never have been embodied better — or, at least, as literally — as the time Clay broke his hand hitting his older brother, Cale, in the face.
“We just got in a little argument and I took a swing,” the younger Millen recalled with a laugh. “Yeah, I ended up breaking my hand.”
That was in eighth grade. In the years since, they’ve learned how to harness that energy and become two of the premier quarterback prospects in the state of Washington — both more heralded in high school than their father, whom you might have heard of.
“We’re just trying to reach our potential while everyone else is sitting around playing Xbox,” said Hugh Millen, who’s taken on the official role of passing-game coordinator and unofficial title of program patriarch at Mount Si, after his own renowned collegiate and professional quarterbacking career.
His firstborn, Cale, started for the last three seasons — becoming the first quarterback in state history with a season over 4,000 yards, 50 touchdowns and a 75% completion percentage as a senior — before committing to play at Oregon.
Most programs would struggle to replace a four-star quarterback who broke state records. Most programs, though, don’t have his equally talented younger brother waiting in the wings.
The succession plan was obvious, Mount Si coach Charlie Kinnune said.
“There was never any doubt who was next,” Kinnune said. “(Clay) just shines. He’s so accurate. His timing is spot-on.”
Two qualities that can’t be coached are size and leadership. That’s where Clay and Cale, both accurate passers with strong arms, differ the most.
Clay measures 6 feet 3, 190 pounds, but expects to grow even more. Cale, who is now 6-4 and 212, was three inches shorter when he was the same age. Cale was always more extroverted, Kinnune said, while Clay is “maybe a little quieter … maybe a little bit more inward.”
“That doesn’t mean he’s less competitive,” Kinnune said. “He just shows it differently. Cale is no more competitive than Clay, and Clay than Cale. That’s one of their founding values.”
Although Hugh retired from his playing career before his sons were born, Clay and Cale grew up immersed in the game. Jim Mora, the former NFL coach and Hugh’s college roommate, was always around the house. Millen would take his boys to Husky practice. He started teaching them many of the same concepts he uses today in the Mount Si playbook — scaled down for youth football.
“When I coached them, we used NFL principles,” Hugh said, meaning everything from the playbook to practice. “They’ve been practicing real concepts from an early age.”
When his family settled in Snoqualmie, Millen took a hands-on approach to coaching. He’s moved up the ranks with his sons. Kinnune said he first met Clay when he was 8 years old, his first year playing organized football.
They had the opportunity to play for private powerhouse Eastside Catholic, but Millen’s commitment to the community kept them in Snoqualmie.
Millen’s stewardship has paid off in one all-state quarterback and the potential for another. But Kinnune, in his 28th year at Mount Si, believes the Millens will leave a lasting impact. (No, there’s not a third son on the way.)
For now, he has two years of a Millen behind center with which to work.
In a 3-0 start to this season, Clay has thrown eight touchdowns to zero interceptions. He already has a scholarship offer from Oregon, with other Pac-12 schools showing interest.
Millen and the Wildcats face their toughest test yet Saturday night against Woodinville — a rematch of last year’s KingCo district title game.
“He’s right on target to have a career like his brother’s,” Kinnune said. “Clay right now, when he steps out on the field, it’s like ‘We’re gonna win. Because that’s what we do. We always win.’
“That becomes embedded in your culture.”