MISSOULA – Montana fans cheer on Griz football players every fall, but they rarely see all of the work that leads up to those precious Saturdays.
The KPAX Athlete of the Week took advantage of every single moment on campus, on the field and off, while setting himself up for more success in the future.
Reggie Tilleman’s college career started about as under the radar as you can get. The 8-Man football standout from Genesee, Idaho walked on at Montana. Tilleman didn’t even make the cut for fall camp during his redshirt season. After three years, he had barely set foot on the field in a game, but he never thought about doing anything else.
“When you step back and loot at it, we’re playing football in one of the greatest places in the country to play, one of the best programs,” said Tilleman. “It never really crossed my mind of whether or not I was going to stick around or not, as long as they let me.”
Tilleman’s perseverance paid off. As a senior, he became a starting defensive end and a team captain. He made 40 tackles and five stops for loss this season. The University of Montana holds a special place in the heart of his entire family — great uncle Mike Tilleman is a Griz and NFL legend — but more than the football program caught Reggie’s eye out of high school.
“Really what did it for me was just the coupling of the football atmosphere and the academic atmosphere,” said Tilleman. “The business school has been awesome the last four years.”
While he had to wait for football success, Tilleman has been winning in the classroom for as long as he can remember. He finished a degree in business administration and finance in four years and is now one semester away from an MBA, while carrying a 3.9 grade-point average. Tilleman has received numerous academic honors, including becoming the Big Sky Conference nominee for the top FCS national academic honor, the Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete Award.
“I think if you control your attitude and effort, which is what coach (Bobby) Hauck said to us all of the time, then academics can pretty much take care of themselves if you care about it and you put good hard work into it,” Tilleman said.
Tilleman’s peers have shown their respect for his work. He has twice received the Tony Barbour Award, given to the player that best exemplifies Grizzly football. When you put together the awards, degrees and the time on the field, Tilleman has plenty to be proud of.
“It’s just a really cool experience to look back on kind of the whole package of all five years,” he said. “Just the whole experience is pretty cool.”
Tilleman has already accepted a job as a credit officer in Missoula once he finishes school, and he’s looking forward to experiencing Griz game days as a fan.