Born into a military family, the chance to represent his country as part of the inaugural U.S. National Football Team has always meant something special to Titus Till. Born to Durwood III and Mary Jane Till in Anchorage, Alaska, Titus and the rest of the family followed his father around the world while he served as a member of the United States Air Force.
The family eventually settled down in Maryland in the D.C. beltway and it would be here, at a young age, that he would discover the game of football. A natural athlete, he took to football immediately. By the time he graduated from Wise High School in Upper Marlboro, he would earn consensus All-State honors and be named a SuperPrep All-American as a senior while playing safety for the Pumas.
He gained national attention as the 11th ranked safety in the country in some scouting reports. After graduation, he enrolled at the University of Maryland and, including six starts a redshirt freshman. Ultimately, a coaching change convinced him to transfer to FCS powerhouse James Madison University. He would play in 34 games for the Dukes and helped them make the playoffs in his final season.
After graduation, Till began work in the D.C. area as a government contractor working as a multimedia systems engineer. He took some time away from work recently to talk about his time with James Madison, working his way up in the audio/visual world, and what being a member of Team USA meant to him.
EM: Let's go back a bit in your football career. At what point did you know that football was something you were good at and you had a chance to play at a high level?
TT: I played flag football starting at six-years-old and then started playing full-contact when I got to middle school. I liked the contact. I wouldn't say I was an angry child [laughs], but when you can go full speed and smack your body into somebody and not get in trouble for it, that was something cool to be a part of.
I kind of knew I was good the first year I started playing. They put me at quarterback and I used to could scramble like Mike Vick. If I wasn't scrambling, I was throwing dimes to my teammates. I knew from the very start that I was an outstanding player, at least compared to the rest of my peers.
We watched a lot of football growing up with my Dad. My dream was to play at a major Division I school and eventually make it to the NFL. It's crazy because I watched a lot of college ball and liked that way more than the NFL. My goal was to make it to the NFL, but to me, to make it to college would be good enough and that's what ended up happening and I ended up fulfilling my dream.
EM: You ultimately got to play as a safety and linebacker in college. When did you make that permanent switch from offense to defense?
TT: In ninth grade, I was the quarterback for the JV and we went undefeated. I got to tenth grade and [Wise Head Coach DaLawn] Parrish said we don't allow our quarterbacks to play defense with the risk of injuring themselves. So, I made the decision at that point that I wouldn't play quarterback any more because I liked playing defense just as much as I liked playing offense because I liked to hit. I said I would play receiver, so I could play defense and played receiver and safety as a sophomore. I knew it was time to get back to my defensive roots.
EM: After you transferred from Maryland, what led you to decide on going to James Madison? I know they have a strong history of winning, but what was it about that school that attracted you?
TT: Oh God, I had a lot of places that I could have gone. I visited Delaware, I visited Towson, Old Dominion. But the campus and coaching staff that stood out the most was JMU. That was actually the last choice on my list.
Before I visited, it was lower on the score of all my choices. But when I actually came on campus and saw the facilities, saw the dorms, the classrooms, the setup of the whole campus, that's kind of what led me to choose JMU.
Also, I had two former teammates from high school that played at JMU, so that kind of boosted my choice. But it was mainly the facilities and the coaching staff.
EM: What are some of your favorite memories of playing for the Dukes?
TT: Just the atmosphere of the stadium. Coming out before the game, just loading up in the tunnel, the smoke coming out and there's a boom and then you come out and hear all the screaming. That was the best part for me besides the “ooh” when you hit somebody. There's nothing on this earth that can compare to the adrenaline you get from the energy you get from the crowd. I would say those are my top two memories.
EM: Perfect. Let's get caught up with you now. Can you share with us what you are working on these days?
TT: So, I'm a government contractor in the D.C. area. I've been on a couple of different government contracts, one being with the Pentagon. I do different installations in the area as an audio/visual engineer.
When I decided I wasn't going to try out for the NFL, so I had to find a career path. My father works at the Pentagon and does similar work as a government employee. I was introduced to one of his colleagues who owns his own company. He gave me a shot even when I didn't know anything about A/V. When I tell people about how far I've come, I tell them I started out not knowing anything about anything to becoming an engineer.
EM: Let's talk about Team USA now. What was that week of practice like for you?
TT: It was cool to be around that group of guys. There are a couple of big names that you hear playing today were part of that group and part of that class. It was just awesome to be a part of it.
EM: What was it like for you, having a parent who served in the military, to put on the Team USA uniform?
TT: For me, my Dad was in the Air Force and I traveled around the world with him and my family while he was serving his time in the Air Force. Just to put on that red, white, and blue was honorable. To represent not only the USA but my father kind of hit home for me. To represent the United States as a football player in that red, white, and blue was an awesome experience.
EM: What do you remember most about the International Bowl and playing against that team of players from around the world?
TT: It was interesting to see some different styles of running and stuff like that that you see from some of the international players. It was cool to see that, you know, football is an American sport and other countries are starting to take interest in it. I thought it was cool to be a part of that to play with some of the top talents from around the world.
EM: Last thing for you; what would you say is your favorite part about the Team USA experience?
TT: Being able to experience that college-level practice and meeting time and then, of course, the downtime that we had to hang out with the guys, that was a pretty awesome experience. To be able to connect with those folks was cool.