Last season, Lovejoy running back Rico Tilley 405 yards and four touchdowns while sharing the rushing load for the four-time region champion Wildcats. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
HAMPTON - The word “if” seems to always pop up when coaches and teammates discuss Lovejoy running back Rico Tilley’s recruitment.
If Tilley was a little taller. If Tilley was a little bigger. If, in fact, he was taller and bigger, the rising senior would definitely have several major or mid-major colleges recruiting him.
Because he is only 5-foot-5, 159 pounds, Tilley hasn’t had the recruiting attention around him that some of his bigger and taller teammates have been experiencing.
But Tilley isn’t complaining or disappointed — he has been so busy getting ready for the upcoming season that he hasn’t put much thought into it.
“I can only control what I can,” Tillery said. “I’m looking forward to the upcoming season.”
Tilley recently committed to Div. II West Georgia to continue his football career. In addition to the Carrollton school, Tillery had an offer from Catabaw, a Div. II school in Salisbury, N.C.
“I really like the facilities and the campus at West Georgia,” Tilley said. “The main thing is that I looked at the depth chart, and I see where I will have a chance to play. Their running back is a senior this year. The coaches also were not concerned about my size.”
Last season, Tilley rushed for 405 yards and four touchdowns on 51 carries while splitting time at running back with fellow rising senior Kevin Morris-Strong and Jeremiah Kirkland, who has graduated. Tillery also had four receptions for 30 yards and two touchdowns. He had 182 return yards for a 35-yard average.
As a sophomore, Tilley played on a Lovejoy team that reached the Class AAAAAA finals at the Georgia Dome. He would have three carries for six yards that season.
While he is pleased with committing to West Georgia, Tilley said that Purdue has shown some interest in recruiting him. He recently attended a camp at the Indiana school, and will attend the Purdue-Wisconsin game in November.
“I’m really excited about that game,” Tilley said. “I know it is going to be packed. Purdue has some good facilities. They have sent me several hand-written letters.”
Lovejoy coach Edgar Carson says that Tilley has the ability, despite his size, to play on the major college level.
“I’m looking for a big season from him,” said Carson, who is in his first season as the Wildcats’ head coach. “Rico is one of the hardest working players we have in our program. If he was a little bigger, there is no telling where he would end up at. West Georgia is a good program. I’m happy for him because he is not a me type of guy. He always puts the team first.”
Wildcats teammate Montrell Custis is also a believer in Tilley’s ability. Custis is a four-star recruit who has committed to SEC powerhouse Alabama.
“Rico has a big heart,” Custis said. “He has a motor that will never stop. I’ve been to a lot of camps, and he is one of the best running backs that I’ve seen.”