“We’re not here without him,” third-year MSU-Northern coach Andrew Rolin told 406mtsports.com with a heavy heart on Friday. “I’ve got a lot of gratitude for what he’s done.“
Rolin said Tilleman was the first community member he met when interviewing for the job two years ago.
“And for very good reason,” he said. “He was an icon not just in Havre but the entire Hi-Line. There’s no Northern football without the Tillemans, and without Mike Tilleman specifically. He had a huge impact on a lot of lives in this area.”
Rolin, who said he hopes to honor Tilleman again in the spring when the Lights return to action on the field, added: “The guy, you could tell he just loves football. And I think he just really appreciated those who have the love of the game he did. He was a winner, a guy who wanted to win in everything he did, whether selling cars or playing football games.”
Tilleman was the son of Belgian immigrants who settled on a farm outside of Zurich. He had dozens of scholarship offers from around the country and chose Montana over Washington for college football.
After earning all-Big Sky Conference honors twice at Montana, Tilleman gave up his senior year to play in the NFL. A 6-foot-7, 270-pounder, he was drafted by the Denver Broncos of the old AFL and the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL in 1965.