In the days leading up to the Collegiate Bowl, we will profile several of the players committed to play in the sixth annual showcase. Today’s feature is on Navy wide receiver Jamir Tillman.
It might be hard to imagine that a wide receiver from one of the most famed triple option offenses would be prolific enough to warrant this space. After all, there can only be so many words written on the subject of blocking from the wide receiver position. But for Jamir Tillman, he still managed to put up big numbers for the service academy while playing at a high level in the passing attack.
There wasn’t anything in Tillman’s freshman year that pointed to his ascension up the Navy record books. Sure, he was 6-foot-4 and occasionally, the Midshipmen will throw the ball around, but in their ground-heavy attack, it seemed like Tillman would just become another cog in the system. However, by his sophomore season, it was clear he had what it took to exceed expectations within the system, not in spite of it.
His second week of his second year saw him grab three catches for 20 yards in a close win over Temple. Then the following week, Tillman torched Texas State with his lone catch going for 67 yards and a score. He displayed an uncanny ability to get open against the Scarlet Knights, as he had five catches for 99 yards against Rutgers, including a 53-yarder.
Despite these flashes of potential, as an underclassman, it was hard for Tillman to get consistent playing time, and the triple-option offense naturally limited his chances to impress in the passing game.
Still, Tillman made sure his junior year was one to remember. He broke out with three catches for 67 yards to start the season, and then had a steady dose of catches throughout the following weeks.
There might have been doubts as to how impactful he could be within the offense after he had just a single catch for five yards against Memphis. But that would be the last time he would be bottled up in 2015. Against SMU, he blew past the Mustangs and took full advantage of his one catch, converting into a 72-yard touchdown. The next week, he scored again on a solitary reception, this time for 39 yards.
The final two games before Navy’s bowl game might be the most impressive stretch for a Midshipmen wide receiver since their move to the triple option. First, he had five catches for 162 yards and a touchdown against Houston. Then, in their rivalry matchup with Army, he again had five catches, this time for 102 yards and a score in what would be a narrow 21-17 victory. He contributed to their bowl win over Pitt with 2 catches for 27 yards and a rush for 7 yards, and overall finished with 29 receptions for 597 yards and five scores.
Tillman headed into 2016 knowing several school records were within reach, and he took the leap to get his name etched in Navy history.
He had 4 receptions in their early win against Connecticut and turned them into 75 yards. Two weeks later, he turned in one of the most impressive performances from a triple option receiver. Facing Air Force, Tillman was unstoppable, hauling in nine passes for 128 yards. The senior became a security blanket of sorts in the aerial attack down the stretch, catching a touchdown against Memphis and then hauling in 12 passes over a four-game stretch, including four for 76 yards against Notre Dame.
And of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention his insane catch near the goal line against East Carolina as he was falling back, a catch that would be the feature of many a highlight reel for weeks. He would score the final touchdown of his collegiate career in a rousing win over SMU on an eight-yard reception. Tillman finished 2016 with 40 receptions (a Navy wide receiver record since their move to their current offensive system) for 631 yards and two scores.
For his career, Tillman squeezed every ounce of his ability into the Navy offense, and it gave the Midshipmen a dimension that most could not have foreseen. He finished in the top 10 of Navy history in career receptions and receiving yards, and of course, he was a fine blocker in the run game to boot.
– David Chough
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Analyst