On Sept. 23, the Buccaneers will welcome four new members to their football hall of fame: George “Butch” Davis, Joe Lank, Jim Smack and long-time booster Paul Mills.
Milford High Football, like many programs in the state, is steeped in tradition.
On Sept. 23, when the Buccaneers welcome Sussex Tech to their stadium for the first home game of the year, four prominent members of the Milford family who have contributed to that tradition will be honored in front of throngs of fans.
Those four – George “Butch” Davis, Joe Lank, Jim Smack and Paul Mills – on that September evening will be inducted in the 12th Man Gridiron Club Hall of Fame.
A pre-game barbeque for members of the 12th Man Gridiron Club will precede the night’s events.
George “Butch” Davis
Running back/defensive back
George “Butch” Davis was the African-American player to earn All-State or All-Conference honors for Milford after the school district integrated. He played for the Bucs until he graduated in 1965 and won two varsity letters. In his final game as a Buc, he scored the only Gold team touchdown in the Blue-Gold All-Star game.
Davis and his wife, Rebecca, both died after battles with cancer. They had five children, four sons and a daughter. His sister, Myra Jones, will attend the ceremony in Davis’ honor.
“He loved sports, and he was always so proud of scoring that touchdown in the Blue-Gold game,” Jones said. “I’m so happy he is being remembered. He was such a good person.”
Offensive and defensive end
Joe Lank was a two-way end for the Bucs until his 1947 graduation. Lank followed his high school football career with a four-year run at the University of Delaware, were he was the recipient of the Taylor Award his senior season.
Lank, a two-year letterman at Milford, is also a member of the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame. He was Milford’s first four-sport letterer and was part of the 1946 championship team.
“I found out about this while I was being inducted into the Delaware Hall of Fame,” Lank said. “To be in the Milford Football Hall of Fame, that’s a very special honor.”
Paul Mills never played football at Milford High School, but he’s earned a place in the school’s hall of fame nonetheless.
“I am humbled and honored to be considered for this prestigious award,” he said. “It sort of took me off me feet when I heard, because I actually never played high school football.”
He might not have taken the field himself, but he’s helped hundreds of players be their best every Friday night as a fervent supporter of the team for nearly 40 years. As a booster, he’s helped feed the athletes after every game, both in person and with donations of fried chicken from his family’s Mills Brothers stores. As a member of the MHS chain gang, he’s worked every single game since 1974. He’s also helped keep Pop Warner going as a coach and a member of its building committee — he donated to and helped construct the building that is still in use today.
Active in other sports as well, Mills coached the Milford Middle School wrestling program for 10 years.
Jim Smack, who manned three positions during his three letter-winning seasons at Milford, caught his biggest break when head coach Larry Gocella moved him to fullback. The opportunity to carry the ball and block from the backfield, Smack said, was a “dream come true.” It also earned him a four-year scholarship to the University of Delaware, where he was part of the 1963 national championship team. It even got him a shot at the NFL — after graduating from UD, Smack was asked to try out for the Minnesota Vikings. But he had other plans; he had committed to the U.S. Army after completing the university’s ROTC program.
Smack recalled his senior season, which was one of the best at Milford until that point. The Bucs went 8-1 with their only loss coming to Seaford.
He now resides in Florida.
“I only found out about this about a month ago, and I was delighted,” Smack said of the induction. “Milford football played a very important part in my entire life.”