Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 15 No. 3 | December 2022

26 Inside Hokie Sports THE OFFICIAL KIDS’ CLUB OF VIRGINIA TECH ATHLETICS TO CHOOSE FROM Visit to join! ORANGE LEVEL: FREE MAROON LEVEL: $35 TWO PLANS Tillmon’s path to a full scholarship and eventual accolades with Virginia Tech track & field started as an incredibly far-fetched dream, when you consider how he came to Blacksburg in the first place. The graduate of Tucker High School in Tucker, Georgia originally pursued dreams of playing football at Virginia Tech when he arrived on campus in 2020. “Football was my first love,” Tillmon remembered. “I had a plan. It just didn’t work out. I didn’t let that make me lose my confidence. I ran track in high school, and I knew I could do something great at this school.” Tillmon found an opportunity to showcase his athleticism elsewhere on campus, specifically Rector Field House. Tillmon got in touch with coach Tim Vaught, who oversees sprinters within the program. Vaught encouraged him to train in an effort to walk on to the team, but would have to do so in the fall 2021, not the spring. Tillmon meticulously worked during that span to shift his body from being ready for football to being ready to compete on the track. “I had to lose like 20 or 30 pounds,” said Tillmon, who came to Virginia Tech in the hopes of becoming a defensive back. “I had a very specific race weight I wanted to get to so I could reach my full potential.” Tillmon returned home to Georgia for the summer to train in the hopes of carving out a spot on the team in the fall. In the meantime, he also inputted his work ethic into side jobs to save up to pay for school as a walk-on. Tillmon somehow balanced his time between getting his body ready to join one of the most successful track programs in the country with working at Burlington Coat Factory near his hometown. Tillmon credits his mother, Lisa, for helping financially support his dreams of walking on and eventually earning a scholarship in Blacksburg. “There was something in my mind telling me: Just wait one more year,” Tillmon said. “We can take out these loans, but I can’t have that burden on her. I was definitely running for her.” Finally, as the 2022 indoor track season began, Tillmon had a chance to showcase his potential. After months of training and slimming down to a competitive race weight, he was finally ready to race at the Virginia Tech Invitational in Blacksburg. After an entire year of waiting for his moment to shine, Tillmon spectacularly won his debut event. He blasted the competition with a 33.58 in the 300 meters, the third fastest time in Virginia Tech history. “I thought, I have to show everyone why I’m here,” he enthusiastically remembered thinking during his first event. “I have to showcase my talent. My teammates pushed me throughout the race. I just ran with so much passion and motivation in me.” Tillmon continued to excel in his first indoor season with the Hokies. The young sprinter finished fourth in the ACC Championships 200-meter event, garnering second-team All-ACC honors and contributing to Virginia Tech men’s track & field’s overall championship in Rector Field House. After a solid indoor season, Tillmon was ready to carry that momentum in his first ever outdoor season. He shattered even his own expectations in the 2022 Outdoor ACC Championships in Durham, North Carolina, earning ACC Co-Freshman of the Year honors after winning the 200 meters and earning a gold medal as the leadoff leg of the 4x100-meter relay. “I was shocked,” Tillmon humbly said about his ACC Co-Freshman of the Year nod. “That’s out of everyone in the ACC. To be rewarded with that gift, I am just so thankful.” Finally, after all the adversity he battled through, between the arduous training to switch sports, overcoming disappointment and the small shreds of doubt, Tillmon receiving a full scholarship is the ultimate celebration of a student-athlete’s unbounding determination. Now that his days stressing about tuition have triumphantly come to an end, he is now doubly focused on making noise on the national track & field scene, while also building his resume as a marketing major. Tillmon’s eventual goal is to work with 2K Sports in a marketing role. “I just want to break some records,” Tillmon exclaimed. “I want that 60-meter dash record. I want that 100 meters record, and I feel like we can take down that 4x4 record for sure.” Virginia Tech track & field will begin its indoor season on Jan. 13 in the Virginia Tech Invitational at Rector Field House. Continued from page 25