Like most talented high school stars, Tilley dreams to play professional football someday but the 6-7, 310-pounder (rated four stars by Scout.com) is well aware that not everyone who dreams about the pro game gets a chance to fulfill the dream. Since there are no guarantees about a future football career, having a degree to ensure a good life is essential.
"The academics are important," Tilley said. "I also will look into the all-around atmosphere around the campus and if the coaches are going to produce me to play at the next level. In all seriousness, if you are heavily recruited like I am, it is something you have to think about.. If I work hard I might be able to reach for the stars. At best I go to the NFL but at minimum I get a degree and am able to say I graduated from University of such and such. I can live with that."
Tilley will graduate from Franklin in December so he will be eligible to enroll in college in January. That is good news to the University of Florida which loses five senior offensive linemen. It would be a real plus for the Gators if they could sign Tilley and have him go through spring practice.
He is going to take five official visits although he is only certain of four at the moment.
"I will set up officials to Oklahoma and Arizona State and I am also going to get down to Florida, and LSU," he said. "The last one I don't know."
Tilley really needs to get the ball rolling on the visits. Time is running out on a January enrollee to get all the visits in and make the decision. Since he transferred to a new high school this fall, there has been a certain amount of confusion with his transcripts.
"My old school didn't give my transcripts and stuff so I couldn't get the paperwork to schools," he said. "All of that is finally cleared up."
Florida is the only school on his list that will be getting a second look. He was on hand for the Friday Night Lights camp in July that saw numerous big time recruits visit the Florida campus for an extraordinary one-evening mini-camp. On that visit, he found much to like including The Swamp.
"It was a nice stadium … I loved it," he said. "I don't know how to explain it. I saw Florida play Tennessee on television. They were very impressive. They were well coached and well oriented. I think the new system is where I am very impressed with where it is going right now.
"(Offensive Line) Coach Hevesy is a coach that is no nonsense. He will tell you straight forward if something isn't right up. He says they have bad issues with depth. What is bad for them is good for us (the recruits), for getting on the field early."
According Franklin Offensive Line Coach Jeremy Beckham, there is a genuine interest for Florida from Tilley and his family.
"Lee and his family have a lot of interest in Florida," Beckham said. "They love Coach Hevesy. That staff has a great track record of keeping guys on track and making sure they do right. That is one real reason why he and his mom really like Florida."
Tilley also has considerable amount to say about the other schools on his list.
OKLAHOMA: "They have been playing for the title for a long time. That means if I go there I have a good chance of playing for a national championship. It's the same with going to Florida. The opportunity to play in that big game is there, for some teams it's not like that. Stability."
ARIZONA STATE: I like the warm weather and nice climate … I like the coach."
LSU: "I thought they weren't interested, because I stopped receiving mail. But a lot of my mail got lost when I switched schools. They are a great football team and I have family down that way. They played for a national title two years ago. All of these programs have the potential to go all the way and win it all. Even if the coaches leave they will go get a good coach."
According to Coach Beckham, there is no question about Tilley's ability. He has now been a part of a pass oriented team and run oriented team and excels at both for his position.
"In the three years prior to this he played in more of a wide open passing scheme, here he's playing in more of a triple option running team," Beckham said. "The big knock has been can he run block and come off the ball? Well, he has done a great job at adjusting to a new offense that he hasn't had any experience before. He has also only played since he was a freshman in high school."
Tilley understands that his goals to get in and compete for a job on the o-line at a school are important and he may just move that process right along. Don't be surprised if he sees some place he really likes and pulls the proverbial trigger.
"I don't know if I will take all five (visits), Tilley said. "If something strikes my fancy and I love it, I might just commit. We will leave it at that."
His dream will become a reality soon as his coach indicated his full qualifying status and the 20 on his ACT. Lee Tilley will be a huge cog in some school's recruiting class in a matter of a month or two.