Former Klein Collins athlete Tyler Spillman, then 18 years old and playing at Trinity Valley Community College with dreams of playing Division I football, died October 9, 2017, in a fatal car accident. Nearly a year later his Tiger brothers have amassed 6-0 overall and 4-0 District 15-6A records and reached No. 9 in the Associated Press Texas Prep Polls.
Despite their success on the field in memory of the former outside linebacker and the Tigers’ looming matchup with Stratford, it would be unfair and wrong to remember him as just a football player.
To his community, he meant so much more.
“Tyler was a beautiful soul, who touched the lives of so many. He was the person you could go to if you ever needed advice for anything and everything and he would know what to say. He was honestly such an amazing and funny person,” his sister Kayleigh Benedic said in a letter following his death. “When you are in a room with him you can’t help but laugh. He was always laughing and he had a smile that could light up a room. There’s not really enough words to describe how impressive of a person he was, it’s truly inspiring.”
Before his death, Spillman wrote a paper which highlighted what his core values, contributions, and goals were — values like “family, faith, trust, loyalty and honesty” and contributions to “help people with their problems, always keeping it real and being a natural leader.”
The morning after his death was met with shock, with Spillman’s face plastered on all social media platforms, friends and family posted videos, and pictures remembering a young man that brought a smile to everyone he knew.
Kayleigh said Spillman made an impact on the world for the better and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters — the outpouring of love and support from the community. The sentiment was expounded by Avery and Aubrey, his other siblings, as well as his mother Ako, father Justin and stepmother Yannise.
“He was an amazing young man. He was respectful to adults, hard-working, faithful and friendly,” Justin said. “He had an amazing ability to deal with adversity and come out on the other side of it even better than he went into it. His dedication to his faith and his fun-loving nature allowed him to build so many relationships where everyone felt like his best friend.”
Some of his former classmates said though his goal was to obtain an NCAA Division I scholarship, it was rare to find someone so young with such a good head on their shoulders, someone so grounded in their faith and so full of life.
In his paper, he wrote his mission statement: “Wherever God takes me in life, I hope that I can impact people and help people realize where they are in life, wherever God places me I will not give up and continue to work hard.”
For those that knew Spillman, they know he did just that, he never gave up. Friends called him a pure soul embattled with his own demons that yet found ways to make everybody else smile — no matter how tough the circumstances.
Spillman was born in Covington, Louisiana, he moved to Austin and Tyler before settling in the growing suburb of Spring, Texas. He grew up in the Klein district, attending Kuehnle Elementary and Strack Middle School before attending Klein Collins High School and starred for the Tigers at outside linebacker and defensive end where he was a team leader and an intricate part of Klein Collins’ state semifinal run.
Former teammates Jake Harpool and Thomas Smith said Spillman, more affectionately called “Spilly,” had the ability to make everyone feel as close as family.
“He was like a brother to everyone he met and that’s why so so many loved him,” Harpool said. “He’s the strongest guy I have ever met. He went through more adversity in three years than most go through in 20, but he never gave up.”
“[He’s] one of the greatest friends you could ask for,” Smith added. “He was always there when you needed him the most. He always knew how to put a smile on everyone’s face and was the life of the party. Tyler was loved dearly by his friends, not because of is popularity, but because of the way he treated each and every person he came in contact with.”
After his death, post after post was uploaded remembering Spillman, who was smiling in every picture. A local Klein Collins student said they’d never seen someone so loved by so many people or never heard one bad thing about him because that was the type of person he was — a “social butterfly.
“I can’t tell you how many people that have come up to me in the past week to tell my family and I that he was like a brother to them,” Kayleigh said. “Which just goes to show you how impressionable of a person he was.”
They say people remember your character more than your accomplishments and in Spillman’s case, this was true. However, you can’t talk about his life without at least mentioning his football accomplishments.
He led a Tigers’ stifling defense from the outside linebacker position —all the way to the state semifinals and one round away from the state championship. He was a leader on the team, young guys looked up to him, he was both a model student and athlete.Drew Svoboda, his former head coach, said no one encapsulated those aspects better.
“Tyler was a huge part of [last years playoff team]. His leadership skills, his enthusiasm for the game, he always gave great effort, he’s tough, he battled through a torn ACL his junior year, came back and became one of our best football players,” Svoboda said. “I think a lot of younger guys really looked up to him just for his effort and the fact he connected with everybody, he didn’t turn his nose up at anybody just because he was a senior.
He added that Spillman impacted so many lives and in his short time, he left a legacy worth remembering. There are not enough words to describe his life, his impact and what he meant to his friends and family.
“He was extremely well-liked, but he included everybody, he was extremely gracious and caring for all the younger players,” Svoboda continued. “A lot of the guys that are still here with us felt like they knew him as well as the seniors last year did because he embraced everybody.”
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