GREEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- La Salle football coach Jim Hilvert took a brief respite from practice and walked slowly to the sideline to answer a few questions.
He was direct and to the point. The first-round playoff game was looming. The afternoon was unseasonably warm Nov. 1 at Lancer Stadium. But, this was no time to soak in the rays.
La Salle must play four quarters, Hilvert said. The Lancers needed to get past the euphoria of the program’s first Greater Catholic League outright title the week before.
There was a no non-sense tone to his voice.
Then, a smile brightened up his face and the intensity subsided. The mention of Scott Tillet’s name will do that to anyone within the La Salle football program.
“Just having him around and see how loyal he is as a La Salle Lancer, how much the school means to him and his family goes a long way," Hilvert said. "To see him enjoy our success here is great to see too. To have him at practice, I think the kids love him too. He’s my good luck charm. I tell him, 'you got to be here every game.'"
Known affectionately as “Scotty,” Tillet is a special assistant to offensive coordinator Gerry Beauchamp.
Being involved with La Salle athletics has opened many doors for Scott, who has Down syndrome. He has been involved with the La Salle basketball and baseball programs in the past. There are no limits to what he can do to help the athletics program.
Tillet, 54, has been helping La Salle for more than 25 years. He is a fabric of the football team. A familiar, friendly presence around school.
“The energy and life he brings to the football team and the institution on the whole -- it’s special,” La Salle offensive line coach Tom Doerger said.
“He is as important as any of the assistant coaches and as any of the players that get out on the field. He’s very essential.”
Pat Tillet knows how essential that special connection between her son and La Salle has been over the years.
Scott will wear his state championship rings (2014 and 2015 football and 1996 basketball) when they go out to eat dinner. He has countless shirts and hats with the school’s logo. He enjoys bowling in his spare time too.
“Scott was such a joy to be around,” said Mount St. Joseph offensive coordinator Tom Grippa, a former La Salle head coach.
Pat drives Scott to school at 7:45 a.m. five days a week. He works in the cafeteria, cleaning dishes, among other sundry duties during his four-hour shift.
Then Scott attends football practice later in the day Monday through Thursday. He’s been doing this since former Lancers coach Jim Louder started as head coach in 1989.
“Scotty was something else,” Louder said. “He had a way about him that was very honest. He usually said what was on his mind. Scotty was a great inspiration to me, the coaching staff and the players.”
Each Monday, Scott offers a new play to current offensive coordinator Gerry Beauchamp. Each play is named after a college team. He likes to help coach the quarterbacks.
By 6:30 p.m., Scott receives a ride home from someone at La Salle. He can’t wait for Friday night games. And everyone at school can’t wait to see him.
“It speaks to who we are as a community -- that we are accepting as people,” La Salle Principal Aaron Marshall said.
“It also speaks to Scotty and how vital he is to his role that he plays. We often speak about what you do here matters. And so whether you sit here as a principal and answer calls and push paper around or you come in here and empty trash cans like Scotty does, it’s all important work. I think it speaks to him and his commitment here for us.”
The school’s commitment to Scott may never have been stronger than last school year. Scott had major neck surgery in March and some complications soon after that. But, he persevered.
“You would not believe the prayer group that formed,” Pat said. “To see 700 La Salle boys interlocked in the middle of it. It was so overwhelming. It’s unbelievable really.”
Scott Tillet has defied the odds for years. He was one pound, four ounces at birth Dec. 24, 1961.
Pat Tillet said the hospital advised her not to take the baby home and instead opt for a mental institution. “They were wrong,” she said.
Years later when Scott’s father died, Pat knew her son needed to be around men and football to aid the grieving process.
La Salle was a hopeful refuge for Scott. Pat Tillet still can't say enough about how the La Salle community has helped.
Scott used to retrieve the kicking tees on the field in his younger days. He will tackle other tasks for the team -- some as simple as tying a shoestring for a player.
He inspires coaches with his slang and famous phrases like, ‘Hey big dog,’ or ‘What’s up, buddy?’ or ‘Need a head doctor.’”
All of it is in good fun. Scott keeps the mood light in an ultra-competitive environment.
“Scotty is what we would call bring you back to reality coach,” said defensive coordinator Brian Heidorn, a 1986 La Salle graduate, who has coached at the school since 1990. “He keeps everything in perspective. He understands what life is all about and gives us a good perspective. It’s good for us as coaches and great for the players to see.”
Scott doesn’t have to say much for his presence to be felt. Watching the Lancers is “cool.” As is being around friends at the stadium. His smile and jokes are enough to see how much he enjoys the camaraderie.
“Scotty doesn’t have a bad bone in his body,” Louder said. “As long as you make him feel at home, you have a great friend.”