Columbus (Ohio) Franklin Heights four-star offensive lineman Lee Tilley has had a bumpy past six months. But the 6-foot-5, 317-pound Rivals250 prospect finally got a chance to smile as he announced his college decision moments ago in an exclusive interview with Rivals Radio.
After taking official visits to Arizona State, Auburn, LSU, Oklahoma and South Carolina, Tilley announced he has committed to Auburn.
"War Eagle," a relieved Tilley said.
"Auburn had everything I was looking for. I'm really a country boy at heart, and I wanted a setting where I could concentrate on what's important. I want to be near good people, great football and solid academics. Auburn had all of those things, and more."
After taking a quick unofficial visit to Auburn this summer, Tilley said he was determined to see the campus again. The second visit paid off as it sold him 100 percent on being a Tiger.
"I liked how the coaches really cared about me," Tilley said. "It was a great fit. It was a small city that has big-time football. I really got along with the players, and it was just a wonderful setting.
"I knew going into the visit that it was going to be Auburn, but I kept a little crack open for South Carolina just in case there were any super red flags that showed up. They didn't. It was just a wonderful setting. How could you not fall in love with that campus?"
The decision ends a challenging recruiting process that saw him originally transfer from original high school – Springfield (Ohio) South – and land at Franklin Heights. The move from South to Franklin Heights caused a lot of friction, Tilley said, between him and his former teammates.
"Columbus is home now – at least until I make it to Auburn," Tilley told Rivals.com in an earlier interview. "I view Springfield as some place you just go visit now. It's like if you escape from Castro, you're not going back to visit."
Tilley did have one solid rock through the trying times, his mother Larnell Tilley. She stood at his side throughout the difficult times and helped him make it through with her good advice and strong support.
"She gets mom of the year," Tilley said.
"If I can keep her from reading all the bad stuff in the paper, then she's all right. She gets real emotional, but that's because she cares for me and wants me to not have to have people saying bad things about me. She's my biggest fan, and I don't know where I'd be without her.
"She's the type of person that helps me with all the big decisions in my life. I know I can lean on her to help me make the right choices. She's not steered me wrong yet."
In the end, both Tilley and his mother knew Auburn was the place.
"It's been a tough ride," he said. "But it was worth it. I'm so glad this is all over with. I'm just now ready to go to Auburn and help them win."