Fan in OL commit Jerry Tillery lures him to Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

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Jerry Tillery plans to do plenty of traveling this football season.

The Notre Dame offensive line commitment made the trek from Shreveport, La., to South Bend on Saturday to take in the night game against Michigan. The trip came a week after he watched the LSU-Wisconsin game at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Those two games won’t be the last Tillery takes in as a fan and visiting recruit.

Making the trip for Notre Dame-Michigan was a priority for the 6-foot-6, 315-pound senior. He chose to make the trip with a pair of friends and save his official visit to Notre Dame for the annual awards banquet in December. That required a financial commitment and a sleep sacrifice. Tillery flew out of Shreveport early Saturday morning after playing in his own game Friday night.

“It's going to be a great game,” Tillery said late Friday. “It's going to be a lot of fun. It's the last one of a great rivalry with history. It was a big thing for me. I wanted to do this."

Friday night didn’t go as well for Tillery. Playing both offensive and defensive line for Evangel Christian, Tillery’s team suffered a 36-30 loss to Riverside. It provided an unfortunate symmetry for the four-star prospect. Last year Tillery’s team lost its only game of the regular season the night before he visited Notre Dame for the Oklahoma game in September. Saturday night was his first time back at Notre Dame for a game.

Seeing the end of the current series between Notre Dame and Michigan and reuniting with the majority of his fellow Irish commits drew Tillery back to South Bend, he said. He hopes to return for the Stanford game in October.

Tillery’s heart, and verbal commitment, remain tied to Notre Dame. But Tillery’s plans to enroll at Notre Dame in January haven’t swayed him to forgo using his allotted five official visits to different schools. Tillery remained mum on the specifics of when and where, but insisted he plans on not letting those opportunities go to waste.

"I'm a fan of the game,” Tillery said. “It's a great experience being able to go to these places. I want to see these great stadiums. I'm a fan of the game as much as a player. I thought it would be fun. Having this opportunity, why not, right?"

Tillery’s fandom him led him to Houston last week, which only added to the paranoia of Notre Dame fans fearing that the home-state Tigers will steal him from the Irish. Tillery met up with Manny Miles, son of head coach Les Miles, at the game. Tillery and the younger Miles, a senior quarterback at University Lab in Baton Rouge, met when their two teams played against each other in the state semifinals in 2012. The two since developed a friendship.

“Anytime I'm in Baton Rouge or he's in Shreveport, I give him a call,” Tillery said.

Tillery communicates with his fellow Irish commitments as well. He spent a week in Las Vegas this summer with 2015 safety Nicco Fertitta.

Tillery, who became the first recruit to offer his pledge to the Irish in the 2015 class back in June of 2013, doesn’t have much left to learn about Notre Dame as a recruit, but he’s still invested in making more memories.

“A night game in Notre Dame Stadium — that's another experience you can't pass up as a football fan,” Tillery said.

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

5. OL Jerry Tillery, 6-6, 315; Shreveport (La.) Evangel: Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand reached into the talent-rich state of Louisiana for a gem in the tall, athletic Tillery. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN).