For Cleveland Browns wide receiver Cedric Tillman, football is practically in his blood. But his path to the NFL and the Browns was all his own.
CLEVELAND, Ohio — His mother thought his jer was etched in stone. When Cedric Tillman started playing high school football at Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman, Roshanda Tillman expected her son to pick the quarterback, just like his older brother Jamir did before he became a standout receiver at Navy. Cedric chose #6 instead.
He actually cycled through a few numbers before finally settling on No. 4 as a senior and held it throughout his college career at Tennessee. “He’s always been like that,” Roshanda told cleveland.com.
“At first you’re like, ‘Cedric, what are you doing?’ But after a while you understand. I always felt that Cedric saw life through a different lens than we did. Coming from a football family, Tillman, the Browns starter, has an interesting dichotomy. In addition to his brother’s football career – which ended abruptly – his father, Cedric Sr., had a four-year NFL career from 1992-95.
But Cedric Tillman doesn’t want his father and brother to define him in front of him. In fact, he took time to play receiver instead of being introduced to the game as a running back. Even when he hit his prime and began to blossom, he was undeniably a late bloomer. Figuring out his personality and learning to play for his size took until his last two years in college — which is what drew the Browns in this year’s draft. And yes, there’s even that shirt number decision.
He appears to be on a similar path now, experiencing his NFL journey on his own time. Tillman didn’t have a flashy, explosive catch in Cleveland through his first four games — in fact, he didn’t even get his first score and reception until Week 4 against the Ravens. But he saw offensive tackles in every contest.
He received praise from coaches for his training methods and demeanor. He talked about a willingness to learn from the vets in the room and has the learning advantage of not having to step into the first receiver role as a rookie.
If his life up to this point is any indication, when it happens to Tillman, it really clicks. It just takes a little patience and he manages his metaphorical route tree.