Before they were NFL stars, Robert Griffin III and Charles “Peanut” Tillman were running sprints, or gassers on the Copperas Cove High School practice field and wearing Bulldawg blue and gold.
That same attention to detail, hard work and love for the game helped both Griffin and Tillman not only make it to the NFL but make a name for themselves and their hometown.
“Gassers, not half gassers,” Griffin said with a laugh.
On Wednesday, Griffin and Tillman returned to their high school practice field to shoot a commercial for USAA Insurance, interact with soldiers and retired military members and thank them for their service to the country.
But during the shoot, there was a lot of reminiscing about what it meant to represent Cove and how that shaped them as players and people.
“It’s always good to come back home,” Tillman said. “It’s always good to come back to the school, see the kids working out and see where the program is. They’re always on the rise.”
Griffin was the Bulldawgs starting quarterback for two seasons and led the team to Division I-4A state championship games in 2006 and 2007 — the only two appearances in school history.
He also helped the track team secure its only state title as a junior, winning gold medals in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles in 2007.
From there, Griffin went on to re-energize the Baylor Bears’ downtrodden football program and win the Heisman trophy in 2011 before helping the Washington Redskins win the NFC East for the first time since 1999.
But for him, Cove always has a special place that helped build the foundation for stardom.
“If you don’t put the time out here when you’re young, you’re still developing, you’re building that strength and you’re building yourself into the kind of player that you want to be, you won’t be the guy that you are,” Griffin said.
Tillman was a two-time all-district selection in high school and helped the Bulldawgs end a 40-year playoff drought. He went on to become a four-year starter at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and was twice selected to the All-Sun Belt Conference team.
Tillman is a two-time Pro Bowler, holds the Bears’ team records for defensive touchdowns and interceptions returned for touchdowns. The NFL recognized Tillman for his volunteer and charity work as well as on-field prowess by awarding him the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award in 2013.
All that was possible thanks to the lessons learned on that same high school practice field.
“It is the work ethic that they instill in the kids here,” Tillman said about the Bulldawgs program.
“They’re huge on discipline, they’re huge on teaching the kids about teamwork, value what you have and take care of what you’ve got. They do a really good job of teaching these kids the basic fundamentals of being on a team, teaching them to compete, and I think that’s something that I learned at a young age being a part of this program.”