By R.J. Kule, SCC Editor

(INDIO) – The SoCal Coyotes put the world on notice in February when they announced they would anchor the Pacific Coast Division in the World Developmental Football League, an established, 32-team operation with franchises in six countries. For the faith-based football non-profit that stresses preparation over payoff, this giant leap forward was just another unthinkable moment.

To give the newcomers around the globe a little taste of what’s ahead, those of us who have long watched The SoCal Coyote Machine suggest you dissect their last surreal unthinkable moment.

This past October 16, 2016, playing without three-fourths of their offensive line, no kicker, no punter, and only 23 healthy players, the Coyotes watched a late Inglewood Blackhawks field goal leave them trailing 21-20 with only a minute to play.

As the premature Blackhawks celebration ensued, the Coyote sideline, however, had the look – and confidence – of a pressure-cooked investment banking office. High risk, high reward. Team captains, all college graduates, all thoroughly vetted, all accomplished ‘Above the Line’ leaders and speakers off the field. Relaxed, assured, and buckling their chinstraps, they simply waited for their final turn to touch the ball.

“It felt scripted, really,” said wide receiver Matt Arias.

Perfectly in character for a team whose head coach J David Miller spends every waking minute preaching to protégés to ‘reduce the size of your target.’ Miller believes in minimizing and marginalizing weaknesses, risks, and variables – and that ‘God wastes no pain’ when maximizing opportunities.

With a second undefeated season in Coachella Valley on the line, one that would cement the Coyotes legacy as America’s #1 Developmental Pro Football Program, it was time for the Coyotes to practice what they preach.

For the record, what happened next on those final, breathless play calls wasn’t a spontaneous burst of brilliance on the part of Miller. In proof-positive belief of his system, he had long since given ‘the keys to the car’ to his league-leading quarterback.

Jacob Russell, meanwhile, as the keeper of the flame, had already practiced this scenario 100 times in the week leading up to the game.

The Coyotes went all in with knowledge of their opponent’s hand. Film study and practice repetition had left the rookie All-American quarterback confident he would easily manipulate the predictable Blackhawk secondary with a set-up throw to league-leading slot Jarrod Harrington, a 4.3 speedster with skill to burn.

With a rifle shot to a streaking Harrington underneath, and a quick scramble, Russell cut the needed distance in half and calmly called timeout. The Coyotes sat parked on the Inglewood 31 with two timeouts and 12 seconds remaining.

“When Jake made the first throw to Jarrod, it was the equivalent of throwing a shiny object down the hallway,” said Miller.

No doubt. At that point, the Blackhawks biggest concern was Harrington. Forgotten, on the far left sideline, was the quiet Rashad Roberts, the Coyotes career all-time leading receiver.

Inglewood players – in the days leading up to the game – had childishly mocked and cursed Roberts in outrageous online posts and memes. If the receiver even noticed their preschool antics, he never let on.

“Rashad’s sovereign silence is a fence around wisdom,” Miller would say later of his star receiver, whom he affectionately calls ‘The Franchise.’

With the Blackhawk safeties focused on Harrington, and with only one man in front of him, Roberts was virtually ignored. A master of the Coyotes Run ‘n’ Shoot offense, The Franchise matter-of-factly stabbed his man to the outside, opened his hips, raced across his face, and ran competitively into wide open, abandoned space.

Just like practice. A hundred times before.

When Russell’s arcing rainbow fell perfectly into Roberts’ outstretched arms, it was more the fulfillment of The Machine’s expectations than an answer to prayer. As Roberts raced to his 90th career Coyote touchdown and the team’s 73rd victory in 86 games (85 percent), the moment was quintessential SoCal Coyotes football.

Miller’s entire crew resembles a cosmic force as much as a developmental pro football team, so naturally it would master winning in the final seconds on the final play in the final game to polish a perfect season.

Don’t kid yourself – the perfection and confidence of these SoCal Coyotes isn’t universally beloved or even generally well-liked outside the Coachella Valley. But the machine-like way the organization is run has made an indelible impact and imprint on the rest of the country, where the undefeated Coyotes (7-0) finished as California’s only nationally ranked team in the Top 20.

In a constant quest for equal competition, the Coyotes have become the blueprint for how developmental teams should be built across the nation. They hope the NFL is paying attention.

Unless you’re one of the football Coyotes 14,000 Facebook followers, unless you’re one of the 30,000 youth who benefit each year from one of the countless Coyote outreach camps, clinics, reading programs or leadership symposiums, unless you’re a proud corporate partner – you probably hate J David Miller.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of their score-until-the-final-play Run ‘n’ Shoot offense or take-no-prisoners Darkside Defense, you probably despise his program, and you most likely resent the fact that the Coyotes will be favored to win every time they take the field.

Since 2012, the Coyotes have emerged as developmental pro football’s platinum standard and its supervillain, despite a program of Building Champions, Building Men, relentless community outreach and a mantra focused on ‘faith, family and football.’

With scores like 102-0, 107-0 and 96-0, Miller’s squad has crystallized into something dangerously unstoppable, a developmental football dynasty, like a miniature Yankees of the 1950s, the Lakers of the ’80s, or the Bulls of the ’90s. It is reviled, but also exalted and feared to a level that is unmatched among its contemporaries.

Miller’s biggest mentors are June Jones and Mouse Davis, who taught him the disciplines and details of operating a football organization. They also personally tutored him in their high-octane Run ‘n’ Shoot, a system Miller gleefully inflicts with the same panache that made his predecessors pariahs, too.

The Coyote Machine has been built by adding every resource imaginable and within Miller’s extensive reach, one that sits as a juggernaut waiting to explode on the next obstacle that dare cross its path. To the Coyotes, everything that exists has a formula; every excruciating challenge before them is just a success waiting to be solved.

Somewhere in this vast vortex of massive community service, athletic possibility, human potential, marketing talent, business acumen, all rolled up in what one pro scout called a “a full-blown, faith-based, non-profit machine” – you find a Coyotes model that looms over everyone and everything in its space.

Its president is Don West Jr., formerly of Steinberg Sports. Its board consists of NFL household names, including Brad Budde, Ricky Williams, Mo Lewis and Marvin Jones, the latter of whom is director of player personnel. It seems everyone on the staff is an ‘award-winning’ something from their respective walks in life, from sales, to marketing, to public relations.

The Coyotes have a process-driven system for everything in the organization. Whether it’s their offensive and defensive schemes on the field, to their detailed orientation, contract, conduct, and game-day checklists off it, nothing is too small or overlooked. Marketing programs, film programs, ticket programs – accountability, with someone in charge, is everywhere you look.

“Trust is a three-legged stool,” says GM Sam Maggio. “Coach insists on character, culture and competence, and to do this right, you need all three.”

So, two critical questions. What fueled the Coyotes rise to this point? And to what extent has its influence spread?

The first answer centers on Miller: The best-selling author, business strategist and Hall of Fame coach is famously insatiable. His pathological pursuit — (“There’s power in the process! Embrace discomfort! Pain is progress!”) – is a single-minded emphasis of preparation above all.

“He’s in the office every single day at 3 a.m.,” says Maggio. “In five years, I’ve never seen him yawn.”

Football aside, Miller is open, warm and patient, to a fault. His office door is always open, his phone is always on. His family’s dinner table is always full of brand new faces who won’t go hungry tonight. Strangers routinely find food, rest, prayer and comfort around his living room. His players come and go like one of his own four accomplished daughters.

But when it comes to The Machine, Miller possesses a maniacal (his opponents say diabolical) obsessive nature. Show up late or unprepared at your own risk. He scrutinizes every policy, takes apart every process, and massages every nuance. In between, he keeps highlights of every player running just to ensure “we have the right ingredients.”

The answer to the second question is more complex, but also more revealing.

Take the Coyotes impact on recruiting. In 2016, the team attracted a dozen collegiate all-star “import” players from around the nation, including five All-Americans.

Or take the way the Coyotes influence strategy. Opponents run the football and their own clock, hoping to walk away bragging about a respectable Coyote loss, as opposed to an all-out annihilation. Four of seven teams, including two former champions, all demanded running clocks in 2016. The Coyotes steamrolled an entire league, 406-43.

Most schematic defensive evolutions in the leagues where the Coyotes have played were made in an effort to stem the tide. Most failed in spectacular fashion – the Coyotes have led six different leagues in total offense.

The Coyotes say that their programs and systems are replicatable, duplicatable, and scalable, one that the NFL must examine when discussing developmental pro football.

Replicating this exact version of the Coyotes, however, is impossible, unless you can duplicate Miller. His love for family, players and staff, his passion for Coachella Valley and all the youth who live there, is as rare as a desert rainbow.

The SoCal Coyotes masterpiece under Miller came in the 2015 LCFL championship in venerable Jackie Robinson Stadium. The Coyotes finished a 13-game win streak by obliterating the once-perennial champion Inglewood Blackhawks, in a 31–14 rout.

It was a beat-down on par with the bear mauling Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, only in this case Leo looked like Michael Cera and the bear was accompanied by two grizzly friends.

There were plenty of flashpoint moments throughout that game. Slotback James Calhoun racing through the Blackhawks defense. The Darkside Defense knocking down former CFL Blackhawk quarterback Kyle Parrish 21 times. Acrobatic Coyote interceptions. A teeth-rattling Coyote punt block that hurt all the way up in the cheap seats.

But as time ticked off the clock, one moment after another would personify Coyote football. There was little to no reveling in victory on the Coyote sideline. It’s not what the Coyotes are all about.

Player by player, they began quietly embracing one another. Some prayed, some kneeled; some had tears in their eyes. Linebacker Devin Jones, whose one-time NFL dreams in Houston and San Diego were landing with a thud. Roberts, The Franchise, who had been among the team’s very first walk-ons at an open try-out. Gary Young, a CFL prospect from Chicago’s mean streets. U.S. Marine and Arizona State star Jake Sheffield knelt with arms around Utah State’s Cade Cowdin, and Robert Caldwell, who had just been cut by the Cleveland Browns.

“Touchdowns will disappear, scores will fade away, but the faces on this sideline will live forever,” Miller told his charges. “This IS your NFL.”

It would be the team’s fourth title in four years. The Coyotes would back it up with another perfect season in 2016, capped with another win over Inglewood. Like Mike Tyson, the Blackhawks lost their credibility – and their chin – in four consecutive knockouts, as the Coyotes pounded them into obscurity by a combined score of 142-85.

That carnage is behind them now, in the rear-view mirror. The Coyotes have taken their 20-game fall win streak – that dates back to 2015 – and stepped to a bigger stage in class, competition and culture to the World Developmental Football League.

Now catching the attention of the NFL is all that matters.

Here’s the final part of the equation. The Coyotes are not solely a powerhouse because of Miller. The Coyotes are a powerhouse because they believe they are all a divine, dynamic, interchangeable part in The Machine, whose purpose is to serve on this earth as a small part of God’s Bigger Plan.

Coyote critics may detest Miller’s tele-marketing charisma, his unwavering faith, or ruthless commitment to winning. It’s easy to hate him and the SoCal Coyotes. But friend or foe can’t ignore their ubiquity. The System, The Program, The Machine are unimpeachable.

Some may argue the devil is in the details. But until somebody or something can prove otherwise – here’s a tip: It’s safer to get behind the Coyotes, than to be in front of them.

Built on faith and second chances, and a radiant love for community and each other, this Coyote organization truly believes anything is possible.

And fears nothing short of God on the way there.

(NOTE – This article marks the debut of author Ron Kule as new website editor of the SoCal Coyotes. Visit his site at RonKuleBooks.com. Read more from Ron Kule at RonKuleBooks.com.)

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