As the Syracuse University football team gears up for its matchup against the Connecticut Huskies, offensive lineman Andrew Tiller reflects on his weight loss and grades.
Four hundred and eight pounds.
That’s what Syracuse guard Andrew Tiller weighed when he first stepped on campus. After rehabbing from an ankle surgery before attending the university, Tiller saw his weight grow past 400 pounds before his first season of Division-I Football Bowl Subdivision football.
Since that time, though, Tiller has worked hard to lose the weight. He started watching both his weight and his diet after he arrived, and the work appears to have paid off. Two years later, he’s happy to announce where he stands in the weight category.
“Well right now, I’m about 324,” the guard said with a smile. “So I’ve lost about 84 pounds.”
There’s been a lot to smile about for Tiller and the rest of the offensive line this season. They blocked for five 100-yard games for running back Antwon Bailey and helped quarterback Ryan Nassib throw for more than 1,500 yards by keeping the pressure away.
This week, though, the Syracuse offensive line will face a team with a formidable defensive front, as the Orange (5-3, 1-2 Big East) takes on the Connecticut Huskies (3-5, 1-1 Big East) Saturday at 12 p.m. in East Hartford, CT. It’s going to take all 324 pounds of Tiller to ensure the Syracuse offense moves efficiently against UCONN's Kendall Reyes, a First-Team All-Big East selection last season at defensive tackle.
Back at Central Islip High School, Tiller had no problem helping the offense move efficiently. As an offensive tackle, Tiller helped pave the way for an offense that averaged 313 rushing yards per game during his senior season. Also on the defensive side of the ball, led all Long Island players that season in sacks, with 12, while winning the Zellner Award, annually given to the best lineman in Suffolk County, NY.
With statistics and awards such as these, it’s hard to believe that Tiller decided to attend a junior college. An off-the-field issue, though, made Tiller unappealing to FBS schools.
“Coming out of high school, my grades weren’t where they were supposed to be,” Tiller said. “So a lot of the schools that were interested, they backed off because they knew that I wasn’t going to be cleared to play D-I football.”
Tiller proceeded to Nassau Community College in Garden City, NY, where he would receive a handful of FBS scholarship offers for his play. Syracuse, though, was not the only program interested in Tiller’s services, as he also received a scholarship offer from the University of Miami (FL) Hurricanes. In the end, though, Tiller decided to not take his talents to Coral Gables, FL and instead signed with head coach Doug Marrone’s first recruiting class.
For Tiller, it helped that a familiar face would be joining him in Syracuse. John Anselmo, Tiller’s head coach at Nassau, had joined Marrone’s coaching staff.
“He was my head coach back at Nassau,” Tiller said. “He had always looked out for me there, so I knew that I would feel more comfortable if I went up to Syracuse with him.”
Unfortunately for Tiller, his first season was filled with adversity. He only appeared in 10 games on the year, garnering just three starts. He also had some trouble off the field, as he was suspended by coach Marrone for his role in an early-morning car accident between an SUV and a tractor-trailer. Though Tiller was not at fault in the accident, he still was suspended a game for violating team rules.
Last season, though, Tiller didn’t miss any action. Now at offensive guard, he started all 13 games of the season, as the Orange went on to their first bowl game since 2004. He was also part of a unit that helped then-running back Delone Carter rush for over 1,000 yards.
This season, Tiller returned with three of his fellow starters: left tackle Justin Pugh, left guard Zach Chibane and right tackle Michael Hay. In fact, the only new starter of the group was the man in the middle, center Macky MacPherson. The true sophomore spoke highly of the man who plays to his direct right.
“He’s a real stud at the right guard position,” MacPherson said. “He does what he does well and he’s a very smart football player."
Tiller’s intelligence has also been displayed off the field. Far removed from his academic troubles in high school, Tiller is on pace to receive his degree from the school, a feat that his mother, Sharon, holds in high regard.
“I would do anything for my mother” he said. “Getting this degree, that’s something that she really wants me to do. So I’m making that my main priority right now, to get that degree for me and her.”
That day, when Tiller receives his diploma, he’ll be judged on three different numbers than when he first arrived at Syracuse: his college grade-point average.