BALDWIN — West St. Mary Senior running back Jontrey Tillman entered the 2011 football season knowing that his college future was secure.
Recruited by Pac-12 Conference power Stanford, Tillman gave the Cardinal football program a solid verbal committment before the season started and had every intention of signing with the Palo Alto, Calif., university Wednesday on national signing day.
That all changed with a phone call two weeks ago, well after the football season ended and just before signing day.
The Stanford assistant football coach who had recruited Tillman told him that there was a problem with the university’s admission office.
Basically, Tillman, who had a 4.0 grade point average and scored a 26 on his ACT, wasn’t going to be admitted to Stanford.
No admission, no scholarship, no college football on the west coast.
“I got a call from Coach (Lance) Anderson from Stanford and he told me that I didn’t get admitted,” said Tillman. “I had the normal reaction. I was heartbroken. That’s where I wanted to be.
“I was committed to Stanford since June and it broke my heart to know that I wouldn’t be going play ball there.”
Tillman said he knew he was going to be admitted from his grade point average and his ACT scores.
“In the end, I guess that wasn’t good enough for them,” said Tillman.
The rejection meant that Tillman had to scramble to find a place to play college football since just about all universities across the nation had filled out their slots available for recruiting college football players.
“We had to reopen his recruitment,” said WSM head football coach Ryan Antoine. “It was very late in the process. For this situation to happen at this late of a date was a problem because everyone already had made their committments to other players and already had their signing classes filled.”
Antoine said that originally, when other universities found out that a kid from the area was going to Stanford, they supported his decision.
“When the rejecton happened, it pretty much put him back at square one,” said Antoine.
Fortunately, Tillman had other options available even at this late date.
He took a last-minute visit to the University of Houston and had plans to go visit Colorado and perhaps visit North Carolina. He also had offers from Kansas, Washington State, Arizona and Arizona State and calls from other Pac-12 powers UCLA and USC.
“A lot of things of things opened up for me,” said Tillman. “I’m lucky that I still had these open chances this late in the process.”
It all ended on a good note Wednesday as Tillman signed with Houston. The Cougars had recruited him from the beginning, backing off when he committed to Stanford but then getting back into the picture when he became available again.
“Houston was a great environment,” said Tillman Wednesday. “I liked their offense. i’ve got a chance to play running back again, and I might get to wear my number, 8.”
All Tillman really wantsed is to go to a place with a good football team, good academics and a place where he can call home.
“Maybe Standrd wasn’t the place for me,” said Tillman. “I know what they told me and there might be some other reason I didn’t get accepted other than the academic issue, but it’s not something that I’m dwelling on. I’ll find the right spot for me.”
That was another draw to Houston.
“It’s close for my family,” said Tillman. “I’ve got family in Houston, and my mom wil be able to come see me play every weekend.
“I’m excited about my decision. I think it’s the best place for me.”
Signing day saw another New Iberia Senior High football player head off to college as Derek Olivier decided Tuesday night to sign with Arkansas Baptist, raising the total to 14 Teche Area players who signed scholarships Wednesday.
“During the summer time I heard a lot about it,” said Olivier. “The coach came down this summer, I gave him my videotape and he said he liked what he saw. He gave me a call and it went from there.”獥