Kahleje “KJ” Tillmon’s positivity and charisma persistently shine by means of any adversity that stands in his path.
“I used to be all the time the sort to make individuals snicker,” stated Tillmon, a sophomore sprinter initially from Philadelphia. “Each time I meet someone, it is all love. I by no means have dangerous intentions or something like that.”
In Might 2022, Tillmon’s capability to shatter the daunting challenges in entrance of him culminated in being awarded a full scholarship to proceed working monitor at Virginia Tech. The previous walk-on gleamed with honest appreciation when he took a small second to mirror on what that second meant for him.
“I undoubtedly cried. It was similar to a weight lifted off my shoulders. The very first thing I used to be pondering was: ‘Thanks, grandmother,” Tillmon recalled, whose grandmother handed away the day after his nineteenth birthday. “‘Mama, I lifted this weight off your shoulder. My household, I did this for you.'”
Tillmon’s path to a full scholarship and eventual accolades with Virginia Tech monitor & discipline began as an extremely far-fetched dream, when you think about how he got here to Blacksburg within the first place. The graduate of Tucker Excessive College in Tucker, Georgia initially pursued desires of enjoying soccer at Virginia Tech when he arrived on campus in 2020.
“Soccer was my old flame,” Tillmon remembered. “I had a plan. It simply did not work out. I did not let that make me lose my confidence. I ran monitor in highschool, and I knew I might do one thing nice at this faculty.”
Tillmon discovered a possibility to showcase his athleticism elsewhere on campus, particularly Rector Area Home. Tillmon acquired in contact with coach Tim Vaught, who oversees sprinters inside the program. Vaught inspired him to coach in an effort to stroll on to the staff, however would have to take action within the fall 2021, not the spring. Tillmon meticulously labored throughout that span to shift his physique from being prepared for soccer to being able to compete on the monitor.
“I needed to lose like 20 or 30 kilos,” stated Tillmon, who got here to Virginia Tech within the hopes of turning into a defensive again. “I had a really particular race weight I wished to get to so I might attain my full potential.”
Tillmon returned dwelling to Georgia for the summer season to coach within the hopes of carving out a spot on the staff within the fall. Within the meantime, he additionally inputted his work ethic into aspect jobs to save lots of as much as pay for varsity as a walk-on. Tillmon in some way balanced his time between getting his physique prepared to hitch some of the profitable monitor applications within the nation with working at Burlington Coat Manufacturing facility close to his hometown. Tillmon credit his mom, Lisa, for serving to financially help his desires of strolling on and ultimately incomes a scholarship in Blacksburg.
“There was one thing in my thoughts telling me: Simply wait yet another yr,” Tillmon stated. “We are able to take out these loans, however I can not have that burden on her. I used to be undoubtedly working for her.”
Lastly, because the 2022 indoor monitor season started, Tillmon had an opportunity to showcase his potential. After months of coaching and slimming all the way down to a aggressive race weight, he was lastly able to race on the Virginia Tech Invitational in Blacksburg. After a whole yr of ready for his second to shine, Tillmon spectacularly received his debut occasion. He blasted the competitors with a 33.58 within the 300 meters, the third quickest time in Virginia Tech historical past.
“I assumed, I’ve to point out everybody why I am right here,” he enthusiastically remembered pondering throughout his first occasion. “I’ve to showcase my expertise. My teammates pushed me all through the race. I simply ran with a lot ardour and motivation in me.”
Tillmon continued to excel in his first indoor season with the Hokies. The younger sprinter completed fourth within the ACC Championships 200-meter occasion, garnering second-team All-ACC honors and contributing to Virginia Tech males’s monitor & discipline’s total championship in Rector Area Home.
After a stable indoor season, Tillmon was prepared to hold that momentum in his first ever out of doors season. He shattered even his personal expectations within the 2022 Out of doors ACC Championships in Durham, North Carolina, incomes ACC Co-Freshman of the 12 months honors after profitable the 200 meters and incomes a gold medal because the leadoff leg of the 4×100-meter relay.
“I used to be shocked,” Tillmon humbly stated about his ACC Co-Freshman of the 12 months nod. “That is out of everybody within the ACC. To be rewarded with that present, I’m simply so grateful.”
Lastly, after all of the adversity he battled by means of, between the arduous coaching to modify sports activities, overcoming disappointment and the small shreds of doubt, Tillmon receiving a full scholarship is the last word celebration of a student-athlete’s unbounding dedication. Now that his days stressing about tuition have triumphantly come to an finish, he’s now doubly targeted on making noise on the nationwide monitor & discipline scene, whereas additionally constructing his resume as a advertising and marketing main. Tillmon’s eventual aim is to work with 2K Sports activities in a advertising and marketing function.
“I simply wish to break some data,” Tillmon exclaimed. “I would like that 60-meter sprint document. I would like that 100 meters document, and I really feel like we will take down that 4×4 document for certain.”
Virginia Tech monitor & discipline will start its indoor season on Jan. 13 within the Virginia Tech Invitational at Rector Area Home.