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“He didn’t necessarily encourage people verbally, but through the way he lived his life,” said Marie Tillman, who lives in Chicago and will release a memoir next June. “For the people around him, his friends and family, the people he encountered throughout his football career, he had such a drive, such a desire to improve himself that people just sort of saw that and just wanted to be the same way.”

Tillman was 27 when he died. His spirit carries on in those he touched.