Big Tilly


It seems I keep encountering folks who share stories from the past of folks relatively well known in the state.

But one of the most bizarre I have heard in some times came from the person it happened to and has since then been confirmed several times.

Along the lines of just in case you haven’t heard; You imagine how the stories flowed when the Butte boys arrived at the Football Hall of Fame inductions recently to share remembrances of Griz great Bob O’Billovich.

Hoop teammate Dan Sullivan probably waxed the most profuse but that’s for another time as this is a story about Mike Tilleman who departed school a year early to sign with Minnesota in, 65 the start of a four-team 12-year NFL career.

His professional career is certainly well documented including being the recipient of the Comeback Player of the Year after a 15-sack season returning from a bout with benign tumor.

But it is the off-the-field story that was most interesting to me and maybe more noteworthy.

Mike lived in Chinook, some 22 miles down the road from Havre where GMC was encouraging the big man to move his car dealership.

Well Mike, as I’m told, had no interest in doing so because he loved his three-story Chinook house and preferred to stay right where he was as a sugarbeeter.

GM kept after him and finally asked just what it would take to get it done and Tilleman advised them he wanted his house moved from one town to the other.

Like what I am sure has happened to many of us the company just said that’s no problem and even though power line etc had to be moved the Tilleman residence made it way down Highway Two to its current location.

Thus Tilleman Motors remains a Havre GMC dealership, one of several business enterprises the Tillman’s operate.

Yearly he brings a group of former NFL stars to go bird hunting on his property to raise money for MSU-Northern’s athletic program.

In New Orleans in 1970 Tilleman was named team MVP as an original Saint and was responsible for the block of All Pro Alex Karras on the record setting 63 yard field goal by Tom Dempsey at Tulane Stadium securing the victory over the Lions.

A bit of trivia eh

Just sayin’

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