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Coby Tillman Hopes to Help Lead Bixby to 4-Peat

Sports Writer

TOP LINEBACKER: Bixby linebacker Coby Tillman is expected to have an impact on defense again as the Spartans begin their quest to four-peat as Class 6AII state champions.

Courtesy photo

As Bixby begins its journey to four-peat for a state championship in Class 6AII, one player it will be counting on will be Coby Tillman (6-0, 232, senior).

As a linebacker, Tillman compares his task on defense to being behind center on offense.

“I like linebacker from just the aspect of, basically, I’m the quarterback of the defense,” says Tillman, who has played the position since fourth grade. “I call the defense. I move people around, I shift them around and I like having that aspect of where I can shift our guys around to make the play better. I’ll get a call from the coach and maybe someone is not lined up right and I’ll shift them over. It’s just a game of knowing every play and where everybody is going to be.”

Tillman has the numbers to back it up. In 2016, he led the Spartans with 192 tackles, 106 solo and nine sacks. For his career, he has 365 stops, 198 solo, 14 ½ sacks and two interceptions. In six postseason games over the past two years, he has made 91 tackles. Those accomplishments put him among the top linebackers in the area.

“It’s nice,” he says. “It keeps me working way harder than the competition. When you see that visually, you get some confidence in you and you want to build on that. And that’s what I want to do. I want to build on to what I am right now and make myself into a better player, so I can keep stacking up on those rankings.

“I like to be physical with my tackles,” Tillman says. “I feel like when the defense is tackling with physicality, it just brings another mood. It just gives the defense an extra edge for that fourth down and short, fourth down and inches, and that just gives that defense more of a drive to stop more. I get excited for solo tackles, I’m always greeted with my buddies coming up to me giving me high fives, and then you hear the crowd in the back. It is a great environment.”

Football is a game that teaches character, Tillman says, and that’s what he likes about it.

“We have this little saying called DISC, and it stands for discipline, integrity, sacrifice and courage. You use all of those aspects in the game of football,” Tillman says. “You can find anything and you can use those four things with it.”

A lot of success in being a linebacker is relying on your eyes.

“Your eyes play a big key role,” he says. “Like where you are going to fit up on the play. You see the guard pulling, you’re going to go with it. Your eyes are very valuable, and another thing would be having a big football IQ, where you’re supposed to be at the right time, or if your guy messes up, you have to replace where he should be. That just adds on to how valuable you have to be for the defense.”

Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers and Brian Urlacher, who played 13 seasons for the Chicago Bears and is now retired, are linebackers Tillman looks up to as role models for their style of play. Another is Reuben Foster, an Alabama player who was drafted in the first round by the San Francisco 49ers.

“I really like him. He is a physical guy,” Tillman says.

Although many players were lost to graduation last year, including Brendon Evers, a lineman now at Oklahoma State, Tillman is confident in new people stepping up to fill the vacant spots.

“My guys are working their tails off right now,” he says. “Every time we run outside, we’re getting better, were running as hard as we can, running plays 110 percent, we’re ready.”

Jenks, Bentonville (Ark.), Booker T. Washington, Muskogee and Sand Springs are expected to be the toughest opponents on the Spartans’ schedule.

“Our goal right now is to have an undefeated season,” Tillman says. “You can’t come out going slow, or you are going to lose. And, in every game, we take it like it’s going to be a championship. We play lights out every snap.”

Unlike other teams in the Tulsa area, Bixby doesn’t open on zero week. It starts the season with games at home against Jenks on Sept. 1 and Bentonville on Sept. 8. Then, it’s on the road to meet Putnam City (Sept. 14) and Westmoore (Sept. 22). Then it’s back at home against Muskogee (Sept. 29).

Updated 09-06-2017

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