Class of 2007
The legendary Eugene Cooper of Ardmore, named Elzie Tillery,"Edge" because Cooper said this player was as sharp as a razor's edge when it came to football.
Elzie Tillery was the first athlete from Ardmore to receive a major college athletic scholarship. Tillery signed to play with Auburn University and later transferred to play with the Army where he was a teammate to former National Football League great Rosey Grier.
He was born in 1936 in Truman, Arkansas. He was one of ten children . His family moved back to Alabama from Arkansas in 1938.
Elzie spent the rest of his young years in Limestone County in the Ardmore area. He graduated from Ardmore High in 1956. He was selected to the All-Limestone County and All-State football teams, While at Ardmore, he played for coach Cooper. "Coach Cooper gave him the 'Edge' nickname and people called him that ther rest of his life," said Wales. "If you had known him , you would know what coach Cooper was talking about."
"He enrolled at Auburn in September, 1956 where he played three years of football," said Athens City Council President Harold Wales, who is Tillery's nephew. "In his third year he separated his shoulder that required major surgery. That prevented him from finishing out his football career at Auburn University."
Tillery came home from Auburn and joined the Army where he was in rehabitation for a year. He was then asked to join the Army football team at Fort Dix in New Jersey.
"There he played fullback and also linebacker for two years," said Wales. "He played with Rasey Grier who went on to become All-Pro in the NFL with the New York Giants."
While playing with theArmy in 1963, Tillery married a girl from Jacksonville, Florida. He and Patricia would later become the parents of five children. "After he was discharged from the Army, he played semi-pro ball for the Huntsville Rockets. One of his teammates there was Don Lauderdale of Athens. Don has stated that Elzie was as good as any football player that he had seen or played with," Wales said.
After the Rockets disbanded, Tillery was invited to play semi-pro ball with the Jacksonville Robins. There he played for two seasons before ending his football career.
After football, he worked for many years at Bush Gardens before accepting a job in Russellville, where he worked for a mobile-home manufacturing plant. Tillery was killed in an automobile accident in the summer of 1990 while on his way from Russellville to Athens to visit his family, He was only 54 years old at the time of his death.