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Tillman Teaching in NFL
Saturday, 03 August 2013

August 3--  SavannahNow.com reports on the fortunes of another Toombs County football player's success!

<p node="media-caption">Photo courtesy Kim Rice/Calvary Day School</p><p node="media-caption">Pictured from left to right: Travares Tillman, Mark Stroud, Nick Eason. Former NFL players Tillman and Eason played football for Stroud at Toombs County High School. Stroud now is the head coach at Calvary Day School, where Tillman is a defensive backs coach.<br/></p>

Photo courtesy Kim Rice/Calvary Day School

Pictured from left to right: Travares Tillman, Mark Stroud, Nick Eason. Former NFL players Tillman and Eason played football for Stroud at Toombs County High School. Stroud now is the head coach at Calvary Day School, where Tillman is a defensive backs coach.

The telephone call was to be made at midnight. Travares Tillman is putting in some long days and nights, and that was the best hour to reach him.

A former star defensive back at Toombs County High School and Georgia Tech before playing seven seasons for three NFL teams, Tillman, 35, is back in the NFL — temporarily — with the Philadelphia Eagles.

His full-time job is in Savannah, on the faculty of Calvary Day School, where he shortly will start his second season as defensive backs coach for head coach Mark Stroud, Tillman’s coach at Toombs County.

For now, though, he’s spending a few weeks at Eagles training camp as one of four coaches selected by the team to participate in the league-wide Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship. The concept was created by the legendary Walsh with the San Francisco 49ers in 1987, and now each team invites minority coaches to observe, participate and gain experience at training camp, offseason workouts and/or minicamps with the goal to ultimately gain full-time NFL coaching positions. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl-winning head coach Mike Tomlin is a program graduate.

Tillman said he has “free range” to listen in on coaches’ defensive calls, to watch video, even to peruse the playbook — the ultimate NFL insider.

“You learn a lot in the meetings, seeing all of the knowledge these guys have gathered over the years,” Tillman said by telephone from his hotel room near the Eagles’ facilities. “Some things you know, but this is icing on the cake.”

When not busy taking notes — “My notebooks are full; hopefully, I can make sense of them,” he said — Tillman is on the practice field with the Eagles staff led by new head coach Chip Kelly. The 6-foot-1, now 215-pound Tillman sometimes helps out in drills by running receiver routes against his younger charges at defensive back.

“I’m pretty much in shape most of the time,” he said, grateful that it hadn’t been too hot, then added for assurance, “I’m not running full speed.”

Though he completed his last NFL season in 2007 after playing for the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins, Tillman said the league is different now.

“Not even close. The game changed a lot,” he said, noting the technological advances in breaking down game video.

With the current collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players union, practice schedules and other team activities have been worked more to players’ liking.

“Camp now doesn’t look like the camp I went through,” he said. “Truthfully, I could have played two to three more years.”

After his playing days were over, the Lyons native finished what he started and earned a degree in business management from Georgia Tech in December 2010.

“We all know (an NFL career) doesn’t last very long,” he said. “The average player plays like 3 1/2 years or something like that. If you’re smart, you have to think about your future.”

He wanted to get into coaching, but the married father of two (soon to be three) young children didn’t accept offers in Atlanta where he resided. He wanted to learn from Stroud.

“It just felt right,” said his wife, Kiki, a wardrobe stylist who designs children’s clothing for Sean John, the company headed by rap icon Sean “Diddy” Combs.

“Calvary is a good place for me and my family,” Travares said. “When we initially visited there, I knew from the start that’s where I wanted to be, with somebody like coach Stroud teaching me.”

 

Learning from best

Tillman has played for a wide variety of head coaches — George O’Leary at Tech and Wade Phillips, Gregg Williams, John Fox, Nick Saban and Cam Cameron in the NFL. He gravitated back to Stroud, one of his biggest influences as a mentor and friend.

“He’s somebody if you met him today, you’re instantly drawn to him as a personality,” Tillman said, “how he carries himself, how he treats people. He’s just a good person.”

Stroud knows why the Eagles were impressed with Tillman to select him for the program. It’s more than his playing experience, football knowledge and development as a coach.

“He’s a guy with super high character,” said Stroud, who also coached and has high praise for former Clemson and NFL defensive tackle Nick Eason. “(Tillman’s) a very humble guy, a hard worker, driven, a great friend, a great teammate.

“He’s a great player and a better man,” Stroud continued. “That’s why people are drawn to him. They recognize in him he’s got a real quiet strength.”

Tillman is thankful to Stroud and the entire Calvary staff, which helped him through a “very steep” learning curve as a rookie teacher last school year. He’s not looking to leave the family atmosphere and feels he is still in his coaching infancy.

“I just wanted to come out here (to Philadelphia) and learn as much as I could to get my football IQ up and bring it back to Calvary Day,” said Tillman, who will leave his internship early, on Aug. 10, to rejoin the Cavaliers before school starts.

“If the opportunity comes, my wife and I will sit down and talk about it,” Tillman said of his coaching career path. “For now, we love Savannah, we love Calvary.”

 

 
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