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A high school football recruiting cautionary tale

Tillman, a running back/defensive back for West St. Mary High in Baldwin, La., had said last June, shortly before his senior season, that he would sign with Stanford. He turned down all other recruiting overtures and visited no other schools, his coach, Ryan Antoine says, and the Stanford staff was in frequent contact with him.

Co-defensive coordinator Derek Mason made a home visit as recently as Jan. 16, Antoine says. But four days later, Antoine says Tillman got a phone call from Stanford, telling him he would not be accepted. With signing day then less than two weeks away, the coach and player were stunned and confused.

“The kid was devastated and heartbroken,” says Antoine, who is acting as Tillman’s spokesman and did not make him available to speak. “He has a 4.0 grade-point average and scored a 26 on his ACT test.

“We can’t understand it. Nobody is telling us anything. The coaches say the admissions process is secretive, and they can’t ask about it. If it’s the curriculum, we’d like to know. (Head coach) David Shaw said he was surprised. It sounds like there’s something else under the table, like they might have found somebody else they like.”

The Cardinal were recruiting the 5-9, 180-pound Tillman as a defensive back. He had totaled about 5,000 all-purpose yards in his career along with 50 touchdowns. Included were about 2,000 all-purpose yards in 2011, Antoine says.

Wrote Stanford spokesman Jim Young in an e-mail, “NCAA rules prohibit us from commenting publicly about any recruits.” However, Young added, “The Office of Undergraduate Admissions does not generally provide reasons to high school seniors — prospective student-athletes or otherwise — regarding admission denials.”

Tillman does have options, Antoine says, but does not want to rush the process, so he is not planning to sign with any school Wednesday.

“He went to Houston this (past) weekend, and he’s going to Colorado next week. Other schools will have spots open after Wednesday because some kids won’t make it.

“He wants to be around people he can trust. I suppose (Stanford) might not have renewed his scholarship if he had ended up going there, so this is better than that. But he fell in love with the place.”

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