Today we have Sean Tillotson, defensive end from Mansfield Summit. Sean was a first team all 4-5A selection, and faced some of the states top offensive teams and players - Stepfan Taylor, Ja'Terian Douglas, Matt Joeckel, Jamal Turner and Christian Matthews to name just a few. In most districts, Summit would have been a playoff team, but they had the misfortune of being in the tough 4-5A district. The Jaguars went 1-5 in district, dropping 3 games by a combined 14 points. Football Honors: Honorable mention All-District as a junior. First Team All District as a Senior. Team Captain as a Senior. Sean is an honor student, Senior Class Vice-President. 3 year varsity member, two year starter. As a junior he had 96 tackles, 23 TFL, 3 sacks and improved on thos numbers his senior season with 107 tackles, 21 TFL, 6 sacks.
Mansfield Summit won only 3 games last year, after going 9-2 and winning district 4-5A in 2007. The record is a little deceptive, because 3 of your district losses could have easily gone your way. How tough was it last year for you and your teammates, and what did you do to keep motivated?
ST - It was very tough for me going through the season, it was different for me because I've been on teams the previous two years that were in the hunt for a district title, and this year we we're just trying to squeak into the playoffs. We could of ended up 7-3, four games we lost by 10 points or less, the team just didn't have the extra step to get the win. With there being 4 teams that make the playoffs now, we had a chance all year to get that last spot, which was one of the things that kept me going. Second was the thought that this was my last year to wear a Summit uniform and I wasn't guaranteed to be playing football in college so I kept playing like I always do because that was my biggest goal to earn a scholarship.
When you look back at your high school career, what stands out to you?
ST - I have had an amazing career at Summit, I've played with some great players the past 3 years. Some of the best times I had was winning our first undefeated district championship as a Junior at Burleson, who beat us the year before in the final minutes at our place for the title - that was a real good feeling. Next was bad and good. My junior year, during the second week of the season one of our JV D-lineman named Dozie Njeako passed away in the 3rd quarter of his game. The whole school was mourning his death, the only thing we knew to do for him was to beat South Grand Prairie, who we have never beat before. And that Saturday afternoon we clinched the victory 20-17 with a game winning field goal. The whole game was real fired up and it was just the best feeling knowing we won that game for him that day. The most amazing play for me was my first ever varsity snap as a sophomore, I was the most nervous I had ever been, but that first play I made a tackle for loss and a forced fumble to start of my career at Summit. Overall even though my senior year wasn't what I hoped for, I played with some of the best players ever, especially Nosa Eguae and Carlos Castaneda. We had played together all 4 years, and were all like brothers. I couldn't have asked to play with a better group of players.
How did playing in such a tough district affect recruiting? Do you think it helped you because of the competition? or would playing against weaker competition have allowed you to dominate more and rack up bigger stats?
ST - I think this district helped with my recruiting because I knew that there wasn't a week I could take off or it would make me look stupid on film. As you said I played against two first team all state running backs, and D-1 athletes every game, which I believe helped me prepare for college ball. Even with playing in a tougher district I believe this was my best year ever, and was because of the talent I played against.
How was recruiting season? Who were the schools that were most interested in you?
ST - Recruiting season was stressful, because it is really the first major decision you make in your life. You’re picking somewhere you will go spend your life for the next 4 or 5 years.
At first I thought I would end up playing D-1 ball, a couple schools like New Mexico and Ohio showed interest, but as the season went on they seemed to back off, but that's not a problem for me because I would much rather play D-2 now and win and national championship. I had a bunch of schools after the season that were interested like West Texas A&M, Angelo State, Central Arkansas, Northeastern State, Southeastern Oklahoma, Northwest Missouri State, Midwestern State, and East Central. I was very fortunate to have so many great programs show interest in me.
It was recently reported that you have chosen West Texas A&M to continue your football career. What was it about them that made you decide that is the right place?
ST - I loved it out in west Texas, I felt like it was the perfect place to spend my next four years of my life. They have a great program on the rise and I feel like it can just get better and I want to be a part of that. The facilities and the campus were just outstanding all around and they have the perfect degree program for me. All the coaches out there were real friendly and showed that they get to know you other than just a number on the field. Just overall I couldn't have asked for a better college because I think it was the right fit for me.
How much of a role did academics play into your decision? Do you know what you want to major in?
ST - Academics did help a lot because that is my future - football will probably not be there for me after college. They have a new sports management program there which was the perfect fit for me because you can study sports science or take pre-physical therapy, which are some of the majors I am considering.
What characteristics do you have that will help you be successful in college?
ST - The first would be I feel that I can never not work hard, it's just not who I am, and I feel horrible inside if I’m not out there on field giving it my all. Second is I feel I can be a good leader, I'm not one to sit back and let things happen. I also have a great work ethic in the weight room and in the classroom. I love to go lift every day.
How about some advice for this year's sophs and juniors. What do they need to do to prepare for the next step?
ST - Always keep working hard and never think you are too good for any coach or player because there is always room for you to improve your game somehow. Never take a day off because if you do your opponent is getting stronger and faster than you are that day. You can either go up or down - you never stay the same so always strive to keep elevating your game.
Thanks for your time and best of luck.