Tuesday, 23 June 2020 08:51

Tillman drafts open letter to Cooper, DPI asking for football in 2020

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Rising senior CJ Tillman (24) wrote an open letter to Gov. Cooper and DPI asking for football to be played this fall. Rising senior CJ Tillman (24) wrote an open letter to Gov. Cooper and DPI asking for football to be played this fall. Jimmy McDonald — The Richmond Observer.

ROCKINGHAM — CJ Tillman has spent his entire life growing up in Richmond County with the aspiration of being a part of the longstanding traditions of the  Richmond Senior High School football program.

The rising senior linebacker has been an integral part of the Raiders’ success the last couple seasons, playing hundreds of snaps as a sophomore and junior, and led the team in tackles (105) last season.

But now his senior season, the end cap to that lifelong journey, along with several of his teammates and thousands of players across the state, is in jeopardy.

COVID-19 and its subsequent global outbreak continues to raise uncertainties around high school athletics in North Carolina, and currently, no definitive decision has been made as to whether or not the familiar sights and sounds of football fields will be alive on Friday nights this fall.

Taking the step forward as one of the team’s leaders, Tillman took matters into his own hands and drafted an open letter to Governor Roy Cooper and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction on Twitter. 

He posted the letter calling for action to be taken to make a 2020 season possible on June 19, and his post has since received 209 retweets and 550 likes. Tillman was the second high school player to make a plea for football, joining Samuel Whitt (East Surry High School), while others across the state have followed.

“He (Whitt) inspired me to do something like that for our county,” Tillman explained of his reasoning. “I know a lot of people feel the same way about wanting a football season, so I wanted to speak up for them and my teammates.

“I’m hoping my letter gets to Gov. Cooper and he thinks about making a decision to let us play football,” he added.

Of the overwhelming support on Twitter and the amount of positive feedback about his letter, Tillman said “Richmond County and our fans are always so supportive,” and that he was glad to see it go viral.

After a short introduction of himself, the 6-foot, 212-pound linebacker wrote that he was addressing Gov. Cooper and DPI not only about a potential football season, but other sports that have been impacted by the coronavirus dead period.

“I understand that our health is the top priority and making sure everyone stays healthy and safe and you are taking very careful precautions about what to do,” Tillman’s letter read. “I’m not here to tell you how to do your job, but I’m here to tell you how big your decisions for the future can hugely impact many people.

“For me and most of my teammates, we use football as a getaway, to keep us from trouble,” it continued. “Some use it as an opportunity to help their family out of poverty and struggle. The game to us isn’t just a game… it’s our life… it’s our way out.

“Sports is a chance to mold our lives and shape it the way we want to be shaped… each and every day is precious to us because we know our days of high school football are shortened and we can’t take a day for granted because we never know if we’ll get that day back or not.”

Tillman closed his letter by asking Cooper and DPI not to “limit our days” and credited Richmond’s coaches and teachers, as well as those across the state, as being responsible enough to carry out whatever restrictions may be put in place, such as social distancing.

“I pray you take this into consideration and think deeply about your decision-making,” Tillman concluded. 

At the time of publication, Tillman said he hasn’t heard back from either the Governor or North Carolina Superintendent Mark Johnson. 

Richmond County Schools officials also haven’t given the okay to resume practices, but are aiming for July 6 as a possible restart date.

Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

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