IRISH STEW

Jerry Tillery: "I want to win a national championship"

IRISH STEW

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Jerry Tillery had to adjust to Notre Dame in more ways than one.

When he arrived on campus this winter, Tillery -- a 6-foot-6, 300-pound freshman from Shreveport, La. -- found a different world than the one he previously knew.

“It’s about a 100-degree difference to what I was used to back home, coming here in the winter," Tillery said in an interview with und.com's Jack Nolan. "It was quite the adjustment. I had to get new winter coats. I had never worn long johns before.”

His more publicized transition, however, played out on the field.

Tillery, who starred on both the offensive and defensive lines in high school, was ranked as a four-star recruit by Rivals and 247Sports in the 2015 signing class, with the assumption being that he'd develop into an elite offensive tackle at Notre Dame.

After signing with the Irish, however, head coach Brian Kelly announced that Tillery had decided to commit himself to defense in South Bend.

“It’s really something that I wanted to do," Tillery explained. "I figured that I did well in high school on the defensive side of the ball. I figured it would transfer over to college, and it has. I’ve been really successful so far.”

The adjustment, both to a new school and lifestyle, was made easier by Tillery's surroundings. Since enrolling early, he has found a familiar mindset with his brothers on the defensive line.

“I think the dudes on the defensive line are a lot like me, so that really helped," he said. "Coming in early, I got to get into the culture and see how they do things and definitely try to copy that.

"We’re together all the time, so of course you pretty much have to like each other. It’s been fun.”

It has also been productive, as Tillery impressed coaches and teammates alike throughout his first 15 practices at Notre Dame. During his interview with Nolan on Notre Dame Day, a 29-hour celebration of Notre Dame's mission, the freshman joked that he has not watched any of Kelly's press conferences this spring, steering clear of the significant hype surrounding the nose guard's debut season.

Regardless of his individual aspirations, however, the immediate goal is clear.

“I want to win a national championship, Jack,” Tillery said.

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Watch the interview in its entirety below.

Notre Dame freshman defensive lineman Jerry Tillery (99) is off to a strong start in his first handful of spring practices for the Irish, quickly ascending toward the top of the depth chart. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)