"My college choice is… Auburn University," Tilley said. "It was a hard process for me. I had so many great schools to pick from. I was picking from the best of the best, coast to coast. I was looking at each school individually and seeing the good points and bad points. I was nitpicking, nitpicking. I had so many great choices and I didn't want to make the wrong decision.
"It was just Auburn stuck out in my mind continuously. I went to sleep and I would wake up, Auburn, Auburn. Once I took the visit, I was thinking, ‘This is it.' I talked to my coaches and said, ‘I want to get this over with. If they'll have me, I'll go.'"
Tilley says he was blown away by last weekend's Iron Bowl.
Tilley, ranked as the No. 22 offensive line prospect in the country by Scout.com, is thankful for the opportunity to play big-time Division I college football at a premier school like Auburn.
"I want to start off by thanking God for giving me this ability and the chance to play," he said. "I want to thank my mother for everything she does for me, raising me right and keeping me reared of God. I want to thank my Uncle John for everything he does for the house and helping me be a better person and a better football player.
"(Franklin Heights offensive line coach) Jeremy Beckham, without him, I wouldn't be here talking to you about football today. He taught me everything I need to know. He taught me the game, period. (Franklin Heights head coach) Eric Gillespie, I thank him so much for letting me come and play for him. It was a wonderful team and coaching staff. I'd like to thank all my old teammates, past and present."
Tilley played at Springfield South his first three years in high school, but after a coaching change last offseason, he decided to transfer to Franklin Heights. Beckham was actually his O-line coach at South as well.
"I haven't had the opportunity to know Lee for all that long – only over the course of the last few months," Gillespie said. "I had the opportunity to coach against him a year ago. Lee's an excellent football player. Obviously his athletic accomplishments are why we're here. But I think he's a better person than he is a player. It's not very often that a student-athlete from Franklin Heights announces his college coach and it's a big deal to people outside of our community and outside of our team.
"We feel very fortunate to have this happen today and we're very excited for Lee." Gillespie was asked if Tilley was the most sought after recruit he has ever coached. "Yeah, probably," he said. "When I was at Hamilton we had Brandon Underwood. And Brandon signed with Ohio State and he was being nationally recruited as well. I think Lee might be a little higher of a recruit, depending on who you ask."
Despite being just a few miles down the road, Ohio State was never really in the picture for Tilley.
"Lee's mom attended Ohio State and he wanted to go far away," Gillespie said. "He had his mind made up from day one that he wanted to go somewhere far away and warm."
Added Beckham: "She thought it was important, to become a man, for him to go away and do things on his own and get away from the nest a little bit."