If Nathan Tilford had made a commitment video, it probably would have looked something like this:
Don’t bother searching Tilford’s Twitter for public declarations of scholarship offers or lists of the Top-10 schools he’s considering, either. The only college-related photos Tilford has posted since creating his Twitter page in November 2015 were of two visits to Arizona’s campus and one to Arizona State’s campus in Tempe.
Tilford doesn’t subscribe to the “look at me” way of thinking that has taken over football recruiting, especially at the highest levels.
Make no mistake: Tilford, a running back from Ontario, California, is a member of that club.
Tilford is rated a four-star recruit by all the online recruiting services, and is considered Arizona’s highest-rated commit for 2017. He will move on campus Sunday as an early enrollee. This week, Tilford will take his first college class.
“There’s a difference between telling people and putting it out there on the internet or making a video and all that,” Tilford told the Star in a rare interview. “I don’t like doing all that stuff. I just think I’d rather stay a little more humble than do all that.”
Tilford hasn’t always been this way.
As an eighth-grader, he was a local celebrity with an offer from USC in hand. Tilford, then a lanky wide receiver, had impressed the Trojans’ coaches at a skills camp.
The newfound notoriety went straight to his head.
“I thought it was really cool,” Tilford said. “I kinda started thinking a little too highly about myself, I’m not gonna lie about it. Being in eighth grade, I thought I was the best, then freshman year came and I hit reality. First time stepping on that field was not the best.”
Tilford learned his lesson: Hype is just that. Tilford is a different person now. The once-skinny receiver is now a 6-foot-2-inch, 215-pounder who managed to graduate high school in 3½ years.
“I don’t mind saying I got an offer from Arizona or Arizona State, or whoever,” Tilford said. “I don’t mind telling people. But I just feel like not everybody needs to know. You don’t have to go out of your way to do something like that.
“There’s no need for all that hype, because what are you going to do when you have all that hype? It comes down to you playing, and then you’re not the player everyone thought you were.”
Still, plenty of the country’s best high schoolers do.
Five-star cornerback Darnay Holmes posted a Bleacher Report video of himself Saturday. He stood on a red carpet as photos flashed and girls asked for autographs.
As the cameras rolled, Holmes bent down and put his hand on the concrete, as if he was being immortalized outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
The camera panned to the concrete to an outline of his hand, signature and the UCLA logo.
Four-star offensive lineman Adrian Ealy told the Star on Tuesday “he fell in love” with Arizona when he visited campus. Two days later, he posted his own Bleacher Report commitment video, this one a parody of “Reservoir Dogs.”
Ealy picked Oklahoma. Arizona wasn’t even listed as one of his five finalists.
That’s not the case with Tilford. He verbally committed to the UA in April, then posted an incredible senior season.
In his first game at Colony High School — he played at nearby Upland for his first three years before transferring — Tilford rushed for 308 yards and four touchdowns on just 16 carries.
Colony coach Steve Randall realized just how special Tilford was a few weeks later. Tilford still managed 197 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns against powerhouse La Habra.
“They usually have a really strong defense and they had some difficulty tackling him and catching up to him,” Randall said. “He had a great game and I thought, ‘Man, this guy is the real deal.’”
Arizona suddenly had company.
“All these other schools started popping up and getting in my head,” Tilford said. “Tennessee popped up and I was like, ‘No way! That’s crazy!’ I never thought that would happen. Then Nebraska came along and I was like ‘oh geez’. That’s when I started feeling weird, like I don’t know if I can stay like this with Arizona, if I can stay committed.”
Tilford admits he could’ve kept in better contact with Arizona.
Recently, USC came back into the mix, and pushed for Tilford to flip at the last minute. It was too little, too late. Nebraska and Tennessee eventually floated away.
Tilford decided he made the right call from the get-go. He remembered what he felt watching Arizona practice, how running backs coach Calvin Magee operated and the beauty of Arizona’s vast campus.
“Just seeing him coach and I was just like, ‘Wow, I could learn a lot of new things from this guy,’” Tilford said. “Not even just from football, just from being a coach. That’s my next thing I want to do, is be a coach after my playing career is done.”
On Wednesday, the 18-year old Tilford will start college. He’s already thinking about his life beyond playing football.
Make a video about that.
“With his attitude,” Randall said, “you wouldn’t know he was a top recruit.”