EDMOND — When Dennis Millican was a senior quarterback at Putnam City West in 1973, he watched a tall, gawky sophomore learning the steps of the triple-option wishbone offense that coach Mike Little was teaching at the time.
“He was about 6-3 or so, big and muscular. He looked like he ought to be a lineman,” Millican said. “Being the cool stud senior that I was, looking down at an underclassman, I didn't know what to think of him.”
As it turned out, quarterback was exactly what Scott Burger was supposed to be. And 40 years after he was Millican's backup as a high school sophomore, Burger is ready to find out if head coaching holds the same destiny.
Burger, 55, was named the new coach at Edmond North last month, the culmination of a long — really long — journey to the head coaching ranks.
Starting in the fall of 1973, Burger spent three years as a quarterback at PC West, two at Wichita State and two at the Edmond college now known as Central Oklahoma, where he was an All-American for the Bronchos.
He jumped right into coaching, and spent the next 32 seasons as a high school assistant — the last 29 at Putnam City North.
But this past spring, he decided the timing was right to pursue the head coaching vacancy at Edmond North.
“I've put in my time, and this is something I wanted to do,” Burger said. “Things happen for a reason. You're put in places for a reason, and I think I was put at PC North for so long for a reason. And it was time to go.”
The Patriot lineage
Burger was the first Putnam City West quarterback to be named All-State, earning the honor as a senior for the 1975 season. Yet he's one in a long line of successful Patriot QBs to play during the school's heyday under Little in the 1970s.
Jerry Griffin had a long, successful coaching career — also as an assistant at PC North — until he retired a few years ago. Millican followed him as the Patriots quarterback in the early 1970s. He later coached at PC West, among other schools, and is the head man at Grove now.
After Burger, Scott Tinsley took over and guided the Pats to a pair of state title games. He shared The Oklahoman's Back of the Year award with Putnam City QB Kelly Phelps in 1977 before heading out to Southern Cal and eventually to the NFL.
Kyle Duke capped off the decade of Patriot quarterbacks as an All-Stater in 1979, and Jay Lohrey, another All-Stater, quarterbacked the state title team of 1981.
Ben Rutz briefly revived the Patriot QB lineage as an All-State selection in 1991 before playing out his college career at Kansas. But nothing ever matched the early years.
“You don't realize it until you look back later, but it was big,” Burger said. “I remember the first time we beat Putnam City, when they were the best program around. Guys still talk to me about that today, and those kinds of things are just great.”