NORTH AUGUSTA — C.J. Tillman, Ryan Chavous and Jatonious Butler celebrated a milestone at Fox Creek High School on Wednesday morning, putting pens to paper to confirm their plans to play football at the collegiate level. Dozens of players, coaches, family members and friends were part of an assembly in the gym to mark the occasion.
Butler is heading for Erskine College, in Due West, with plans to serve as a wide receiver and kick returner in a football program that was discontinued after the 1951 season and is to return to competition this year.
Chavous, a running back, is heading for Wingate University, in suburban Charlotte; and Tillman, a defensive tackle, is heading for Presbyterian College, in Clinton.
Tillman's data for the 2019 season included 68 total tackles, including nine for a loss and two sacks. He also snagged an interception. Chavous racked up 1,013 yards rushing and had 15 touchdowns in the mix, and Butler was both an air and ground weapon, rushing for 401 yards on 32 carries, for five TDs, along with having 47 receptions good for 612 yards and eight TDs. He also had a TD on a kickoff return and another on a punt return.
LaFayette Stewart, the charter school's head football coach, addressed the assembly in honor of the three signers, saying, "It takes a village, and I know it took a village to help raise these young men, but you all were ... and are the foundation for them being here, for them doing what they needed to do academically as well as athletically, and I just want to thank you parents, family, friends for definitely laying the foundation for them."
He also expressed thanks for Derrick Quinn, Fox Creek's athletic director who was also the Predators' head football coach for the prior four seasons, for helping prepare Butler, Chavous and Tillman for their big day.
Stewart added, "They did things and led and did things the 'RTI' way – being relentless, tough and intelligent – because you have to embody all of those things to sign a national letter of intent or a full scholarship. You can't just play ball."
He challenged his other players to take the necessary steps to have a day in the media spotlight. "This is the expectation, moving forward in this football program, for you to be here as well. You saw the sacrifices. You saw the things that were done. Let's continue it and do things the RTI way, so this is the norm."
Looking toward the next several years, Butler said he plans to focus on studying business. "I want my own business when I graduate, and .... that's my main focus, beside sports – football."
Tillman has his sights set on the medical field. "My objective is either pathology or physical therapy or sports 'med,'" he said.
Chavous made similar comments. "As of this year, I tore my ACL and meniscus playing at Silver Bluff, so after I tore my knee, I made a pact that I'd help anyone that's going through that pain, because it's a very painful process for me, so physical therapy was a path I decided to choose," he said.