As an All-American running back for the 1985 National Championship Oklahoma Sooners, Spencer Tillman was already on his way to fulfilling a series of dreams. The amazing run continued in the NFL where he was a part of the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl XXIV winning team.
Tillman has since become a notable sports broadcaster for local affiliates in Houston as well as nationally for CBS Sports and now Fox Sports. In this CSJ Conversation with managing editor Chad Bonham, the 1987 Orange Bowl MVP talks about how his faith helps him on the job and what he believes is his responsibility as a Christian.
Chad Bonham: Tell me about your faith journey.
Spencer Tillman: I was raised in a Christian home. My mother was a missionary. But I didn’t make a serious commitment to Christ until I was 17 years old when I was at Camp Kanakuk in Branson, Missouri.
Bonham: What’s one of the biggest challenges of being a sports broadcaster?
Tillman: Temptation is always going to be out there because people are drawn to some sense of celebrity. The key is to start off knowing that is the case. When you understand the nature of the business and the nature of people, then you can guard against those things. I had the advantage of being an athlete. I’d already tasted fame so I knew how to temper it better than the average non-athlete broadcaster.
Bonham: Do you feel like you have a unique responsibility as a Christian in that arena?
Tillman: We need to be the part as opposed to waving the banner; let our actions speak for themselves. My goal is to be the best person I can be, knowing that’s what Christ would call me to be. If you want to interview me, it’s going to come out. You’re going to know what I stand for and there’s no skirting the issue. Whatever I’ve got in the way of gifts and talent, I’m going to give it my all. That’s what I’m called to do. We only have a certain amount of time on this planet and my goal is in part to utilize that time to the most. The reason I wear two watches is because it’s a constant reminder for me to be about doing the things that God sent me to do. That’s being the best at what I can be. So every time I peer down at those two watches, I know that one of them doesn’t work. My goal is to find myself 80 percent of the time doing things that are connected to my calling and my vision and what the Lord has equipped me to do. The majority of my time, you’re going to see me locked in to what God has called me to do. That’s what I can do as a believer.
Bonham: What are some ways that you try live out your faith professionally?
Tillman: I make personal contact with every single person that’s a part of our support group. We do this little thing we’re we bump hands and I just look them in they eye and say, “Hey, let’s have a good day today.” I do that intentionally. There are 30 interns back there behind us on that set, but I want them to know that I’m a part of what they’re doing and this is a team effort. I challenge them on certain areas and they’ll do the same to me.
Bonham: What message do you have for Christians who are also sports fans?
Tillman: We need support out here. Christian sports fans should write the networks and let them know that they appreciate having Christian broadcasters on the air because they like what they stand for.
(Photos: Fox Sports; CBS Sports)