By Kevin Eickman
The Milford 12th Man Gridiron Club has announced their inductees for the the class of 2016 . This year’s class will include Bill Strickland, Jason Kollock, Clay Turner and Chris Drummond. This week the focus will turn to Milford graduate William “Bill” Strickland. Strickland is a 1979 graduate and two year starter at quarterback during his time as a Buccaneer. Known for his cool head under pressure, competitive nature and leadership skills, Strickland turned in a spectacular 1978 season that culminated in him being named second team All-State.
Most impressive about his senior season was how close Milford came to qualifying for a State Tournament birth, going 7-3 after the Bucs had posted just a 1-9 record the previous year. “It was great being a part of that 79 squad, nobody expected a whole lot out of us,” Strickland stated. “That was just fine with us, we came ready to play every game and we knew that if we did our jobs we would have a good chance of winning.”
The game that would keep them out of the playoffs would be a 8-7 defeat to Caesar Rodney, which saw Milford fumble inside their opponents five yard line late in the game. “Losing a game like that was very tough, but we didn’t let it define us, we held our heads up high knowing that we had fought to the end,” said Strickland.
It was that type of effort that defined Strickland throughout his Milford athletic career. “Bill was the definition of what a scholar athlete should be,” former Buccaneer head coach Vern Walsh said. “He was ready to play every game, he knew exactly what needed to be done and did it. More importantly he was a fantastic in the classroom as well.” When asked what separated Strickland from other players he had coached, Walsh was quick to respond, “He was a real leader, someone that the rest of the guys always looked up to. He was very steady and didn’t get nervous or riled up.”
Growing up in Milford was something that was very special for Strickland. “Growing up in Milford was almost idyllic. Everyone knew each other and we all looked our for each other as well,” Strickland said. My friends and I grew up together and played sports together starting in seventh grade. It was great, we did absolutely everything together.”
Strickland was also selected to participate in the Blue-Gold game, something that he believes really opened his eyes about what life could really be about. “To be able to have that positive interaction with the buddy participants was fantastic. Back then it was something that was not a common occurrence,” Strickland said. “It really impacted the way I began to look at things, I began to understand what a wonderful feeling it was to be able to bring joy into someone’s life.”
When looking back on who inspired him, Strickland offered up some very familiar names from the Milford athletic family. “Kieth Betz and Mike Johnson were guys that I tried to pattern myself after when it came to sports,” Strickland stated. “Playing for someone like Vern Walsh was fantastic as well, he really made sure that I was able to get the most out of my ability.”
In addition to his two years on the football team, Strickland was also a four year starter on the baseball squad. Following graduation from Milford, Strickland attended Salisbury State College, where he played football for a year and a half before a knee injury ended his playing days. Strickland would graduate from Salisbury with a degree in business marketing.
Following graduation from Salisbury, Strickland took a job covering sports for the Milford Chronicle. He then went to WBOC. Strickland eventually would open up L&W insurance in Dover, which he still owns and runs today. He is married to his wife Okemah and they raised a pair of twins, Justin and Shaun. Shaun is the current head coach for the Milford Buccaneers and Justin is also an assistant on the staff.
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