'Dad' still cheers for 'Gades

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:23 AM ET

THE CHIEF architect of what has become this season's most pleasantly surprising CFL story now spends the majority of his time building a family in Barrhaven.

Five weeks after his wife Francine gave birth to their first son, Jackson, he remains on the outside looking in at a league of which he has been one of the most successful GMs in the last 15 years.

Along with twice a week appearances as the football expert on Rogers Sportsnet and his column on the network's website, he is making regular visits to the park with two-year-old daughter Alexandra and "the other moms" in the neighbourhood.

"Right now I have the most important title I've ever had," says Eric Tillman. "And that's dad.

"It's been fun."

Before he was unceremoniously dumped by previous ownership, Tillman spent the previous three years as Renegades GM. He is responsible for bringing in the team's most prolific players -- quarterback Kerry Joseph, defensive back Korey Banks, receiver Jason Armstead, running back Josh Ranek and linebacker Kyries Hebert.

In fact, it was under his watch that 25 of the 40 Ottawa players in Thursday's win over Saskatchewan became Renegades. And that's not counting cornerback Crance Clemons, who was re-signed in the off-season but was originally a Tillman find, or possible quarterback-of-the-future Paul Peterson, who was put on the team's neg list while he was starring at Boston College.

Tillman is not bitter at the way the cards fell -- most realize he will have a top job with any one of the nine CFL teams again (leading candidate: Hamilton) in the near future.

But it was his preference to finish the job he started here.

"If I didn't acknowledge having mixed emotions, I think people would view me as being disingenuous, at best," said Tillman, who guided B.C. and Toronto to Grey Cup titles in the 1990s.

"There is certainly some players in the locker room that I have strong relationships with, and I feel very good for them and their success.

"For the fans in this city that have been through so much, I am also happy. To go through the ups and downs with the football teams in this city, the excitement of a new team starting up, and for the team to be playing so well now, I am thrilled for the fans."

While Tillman won't comment on the disintegration of his relationship with coach Joe Paopao, he is clearly bothered by the fact the two haven't spoken in the past eight months.

Paopao, who was hired by Tillman in both B.C. and Ottawa and was also in his former boss' wedding party, was re-signed as coach and also given Tillman's job after the pair was left twisting in the wind for three months by pre-Glieberman ownership.

"I'm certainly happy for many people in the organization," said Tillman, who was then asked if that group included Paopao. "That's a private matter I am not comfortable discussing.

"He has a great rapport with the players, and he has worked very hard for four years. To see the culmination of his efforts and the development of the club ... I'm sure he feels very good about where the team is."

Tillman says Paopao deserves accolades for where the Renegades are right now, and that he should get league recognition if the team makes the playoffs.

"Given all the things they had to deal with in the off-season, and the way the team has come together and played as a unit," said Tillman, "if I had a vote, Joe would get the coach of the year award.

"They are an exciting, fun bunch to watch right now," he added of the Renegades. "They have a very realistic chance to not only make the playoffs, but also secure home field advantage. I think Joe and his entire staff deserve tremendous credit."

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


Videos

Photos