Athlete. An all-around athlete noted for his speed, Tom never played football as a freshman but made up for it the next three years. In the starting lineup his junior and senior years, playing both ways he topped the team stats in scoring, rushing, punt returns, pass receiving, and interceptions. Tom was a three-year starter in basketball and was selected Big 10 all-conference in 1962 and 1963, and the all-state team in 1963. He set a single season scoring record of 334 points in ’63-’63 and set a career scoring record of 717 points.
In track, he dominated the sprints in the Big 10 conference winning the 100 three straight years as well as being a member of the 880 yard relay team that accomplished the same thing. Tom was also part of a Hall of Fame Great Moment in Sports at the Hastings Invitational 100 yard dash finals where the first four runners were across the finish line in under 10 seconds. A sophomore, he finished third behind seniors Bobby Williams of Lincoln High and Kent McCloughan of Broken Bow.
He won three gold medals at the state track meet setting a state record in the 220 (21.6) that lasted until 1998. He was a member of state record setting 440 and 880 relay teams. He was named the Lincoln Journal Star Athlete of the Year in 1963. At Nebraska, he was a member of record setting 440 and 880 relays and won All-America honors in track in 1965.
By Dale Miller – Grand Island Independent, Sept, 2001
Tom Millsap has plenty of highlights to look back upon during his athletic career at Grand Island Senior High.
The 1963 GISH graduate earned three gold medals in the ’63 state track and field meet, was an all-state selection in basketball the same year and was also a standout in football.
All those accomplishments are why Millsap is being inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in a ceremony Sunday at the Lied Center in Lincoln.
But one of Millsap’s fondest memories isn’t one of those many highlights but a moment that showed how far he came during his high school career.
“I had no knowledge about football when I moved to Grand Island from Phillips as a sophomore,” said Millsap, who is now the activities director at North Platte High School. “That is something that sticks out more than the three gold medals at state.
“When I moved to Grand Island and showed up for my first football practice, I did not even know how to put my pads on. I had to watch guys put their pads on so that I would do it right. I went from a school with seven people in my class to one with 350 kids. My sophomore year was an eye opener.”
But Millsap opened many eyes with his athletic endeavors over the next three years. Millsap, a four-sport athlete who also played Legion baseball in the summer, may have earned his greatest fame on the track. A standout in the sprints, Millsap’s 21.6 second performance in the 220-yard dash was a state record that stood for 35 years.
Millsap said earning three golds at state as a senior is something he is proud of.
“That is something at the time, when you are 17 years old, that you don’t reflect on like you should,” he said.
Millsap credits his coaches and teammates for the success he had.
“I’m happy with the coaches we had while I was there,” he said. “I was a challenge to them, I’m sure, back in my days. I also played with a lot of great players.”
Millsap said it is a big honor to be joining the Hall of Fame.
“You are always somewhat surprised,” he said. “If you look back at the history of athletics in the state of Nebraska, not only at Grand Island, I’m surprised and at the same time feel honored that someone remembers you from that long ago.”
Millsap appreciates his time at Senior High, which began a lifetime of athletics for him. He was a basketball coach at Lexington, Norfolk, Omaha Bryan and North Platte before serving as North Platte’s activities director for the past 15 years.
“Whether I was participating, as a player, coach or an activities director, athletics have been a big part of my life since an early age,” he said. “Athletics have been something I’ve always enjoyed. There are a lot of positive experiences with athletics, not to say there aren’t a few negatives, but there are more positive experiences. It is especially rewarding when you work as a team to accomplish something.”