Football star-turned-broadcaster for Fox Sports
Tillman (23) is shown as a team captain alongside Quarterback Joe Montana and Safety Ronnie Lott during the pre-game coin toss.
Long before he took his talents as a running back to college or professional football, Spencer Tillman called Tulsa home. The Edison High School standout now lives in the Houston area and works as a football broadcaster calling college and professional games.
Before retiring in 1994, he played for two decades — at Booker T. Washington, Edison, the University of Oklahoma and in the National Football League with the Houston Oilers and San Francisco 49ers.
Tillman realizes how much he has given to the game, but he also realizes just how much it has given him. Football has given him a platform to positively impact lives, and that’s something he doesn’t take lightly — that and his Tulsa roots.
“I’m proud of being from Tulsa,” Tillman says. “Every person has connectors, things that uniquely position them in their communities, and certainly we had those growing up in north Tulsa.
“For us, it was really the school, Booker T. Washington, that provided a historical context with (former Hornets Head Coach) Ed Lacy and all the great things he did.”
Tillman attended Booker T. in the ninth grade but says he decided to transfer to Edison, where his brothers graduated.
With several family members still in Tulsa, including two sisters and his father, those roots remain strong and Tillman says he returns whenever possible.
He also has benefited from the life lessons football has delivered along the way — sage advice he can pass on to the next generation.
One example: Through hard work and a bit of ingenuity, he found a way to last eight years as a running back, where the average career is three years.
“You have to reinvent yourself,” he says. “Is that not what life is about — adapting? I made myself valuable by playing special teams and being a competent runner.
“… My key was to find out what the coaches wanted me to do.”
Drafted by Houston in 1987, he spent two years with the Oilers, then three seasons with the 49ers — including San Francisco’s 1989-90 Super Bowl championship season — before returning to Houston for three more seasons. During his second stint in Houston, he forayed into broadcasting, a transition not without its obstacles.
“It wasn’t a seamless thing as much as it was an extension of my playing career because I was actually broadcasting while I was still playing the game,” Tillman says. “I would leave practice and go do the six and ten o’clock news.”
He also remains active in the community by mentoring young people with Lift Up America, a nonprofit humanitarian aid movement.
“I do believe in influencing young people, and that’s what I do with most of my time,” he says. “Leadership is the attribute in greatest demand yet shortest supply, so I had to ask an important question: How best could I impact the widest swath of youth in this nation?”
He determined to focus on “training youth about personal leadership. The world needs it in a big way.”