Tyler was born in Covington, Louisiana on December 18, 1998 to Justin and Ako Spillman. He spent his first few years in Mandeville, Louisiana which is settled on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

Tyler spent most of his time with his Grandparents during this time as Justin had just returned from an overseas tour with the Military and had started a new job to support his family. Justin had also just enrolled in Southeastern Louisiana University to earn his college degree and Ako was working nights to help support the family. At the age of 3, Tyler and his family moved to East Texas with a job transfer and again to Austin 2 years later. From birth, it was obvious that Tyler would be a gifted athlete. He learned to walk at 10 months and to ride his bike without training wheels at 2. He was naturally bigger and stronger than his friends but he had a heart of gold. On the field it was all business but off the field he cared deeply for people. At the age of 8, he chose to focus solely on football and it became his first love. He was passionate, driven and competitive. In his very first season, his team went undefeated but lost a heart-breaker in the Super Bowl. In his second season, the team did not do that well but it was highlighted by Tyler scoring the game winning touchdown (as a linebacker) in their bowl game.

At the age of 9, Tyler was forced to move again as his parents were going through a divorce. This was a very tough time for Tyler because he was forced to give up his home, his family, his friends and his team for something that he could not control and did not want. Although these changes would devastate most children, Tyler reconnected with his Grandparents who gave him the strength and the support to get through the trying time in his life. Now living in Houston, Tyler had to join a new school, make new friends and cope with the breakdown of the family dynamic that is all he ever knew. A year later another big change would dramatically impact Tyler and his “new” way of life. Justin had reconnected with his childhood sweetheart and were making plans to blend the two families. Yanisse had two beautiful girls from a previous marriage and Tyler would soon become a big and little brother. Although Tyler experienced several life-altering shakeups at his young age, he always had an amazing gift to deal with adversity with a maturity that was beyond his years. In October of 2009, Tyler’s littlest sister was born and the blending of his family was complete. Avery, Kayleigh and Aubrey became his biggest fans through everything that he accomplished and the voice of reason when he made mistakes. He truly loved his family and although he and his sisters did not share the same blood, they fought and loved like they did.

To help Tyler acclimate to his new school and his new friends, Yanisse thought it was best if he started playing football again. At this time, Yanisse was a Drill Team Director for the Klein Sweethearts and thought that she could sign him up for the Rams as a Legacy player. During the registration process, we found out that the Rams roster was full but we were introduced to some coaches from the Klein Broncos who were very eager to sign a player of his size.

After joining the Klein Broncos, Tyler was able to use his athleticism and sense of humor to instantly build friendships and bonds that stayed with him. Tyler attended Strack Middle School where he played Basketball and Football and made even more long-lasting relationships. Tyler’s sense of humor and caring nature was always a gift that he possessed and made it easy for him to connect with other people. In 9th grade, Tyler attended Klein Collins High School and expectations were growing quickly. His friends and teammates were special and the coaches and community were starting to buzz. Tyler’s freshman and sophomore years at Klein Collins were good ones. He was starting at outside Linebacker and the team won the District Championship both years.

Although he was big in stature, Tyler trained relentlessly on his footwork in an attempt to increase his speed and quickness. Tyler was able to realize the fruits of his labor when he was invited to the Nike Training Combine and he scored in the Top 25% in the country during the summer of his Sophomore year. The future was bright and he was on top of the world! When his Junior Season rolled around, Tyler was asked to make a move to Inside Linebacker to help his team. Although this change was uncomfortable for him personally he knew that the team needs would always come first. He put the work in physically and academically to prepare his body and mind for the switch and he earned a starting job. Although he was very proud of this accomplishment, the excitement was short-lived. In only the 3rd game of the season, Tyler suffered a season ending injury when he tore his ACL and Meniscus in his right knee. The injury not only devastated him physically but mentally he was suffering as well. He was on top of the world in one moment and the next he felt as if his entire world came crumbling down. Negative thoughts about missing a critical recruiting year and doubts about never getting back to where he was were consuming. As if scripted from the beginning, his relationship with Detrick Brown-Hornsby proved to be life-changing. Detrick challenged his perspective on Faith, Perseverance and Work Ethic. Day by day, the doubts and pain would subside and focus, hard work and rehab would become the plan forward. Through this journey, Tyler and Detrick built an unbreakable bond and they became brothers.

Tyler’s fight became his passion and his relentless pursuit to become better than he was before became inspiring. Tyler battled every day for 9 months before he was cleared to play again. He used his time away to sharpen his mind and his body and he was able to get himself ready for his senior season. Academically he was thriving as well and was awarded an induction into the National Honor Society.

At the start of the season, Tyler was asked to make the change to Defensive End and this time, the change was an exciting opportunity for him. Although he was not technically a starter, Tyler made the most out of each and every play and finished as one of the top sack leaders for the District. Klein Collins made it all the way to the State Semi-Finals but lost a heart breaking game against the ultimate State Champions in Desoto High School. The emotions of playing his final high school game with his childhood friends and teammates was bittersweet. Even though this was a historic season for Klein Collins, for most of the upperclassman; this would be their very last football game. This was the end of an era for most of the coaches, parents and players but for a select few it was the beginning of a new level. Although Tyler came off of the bench for most of his Senior season, his work ethic and production earned him several scholarship opportunities.

During his recruiting trips, Tyler was thankful and appreciative to earn the respect and belief from many Coaches at the next level. Ultimately he believed that signing with Trinity Valley was the best opportunity to prepare himself for a Division 1 opportunity.

Tyler worked tirelessly during his summer break to prepare for the college level. He knew going into it, that everyone was bigger, stronger and faster and he wanted to make an impact. Tyler got to campus, in the best shape of his life and with a work ethic that few freshman have. He was able to earn the respect and friendship of his new teammates and coaches quickly. He dove into his academics and bible studies more deeply and counseled countless friends through various hardships. As a freshman, he wasn’t playing as much as he had hoped but once again, he was making the most out of each play. When his season ended after another knee injury, he was among the team leaders in sacks. Even though being injured again was yet another setback, his mental toughness was at an all-time high and he knew he had to fight back.

When Tyler came home on a bye weekend he was different. He had matured in his short time away at college. He enjoyed catching up with family and friends and there was a sense of peace about him that was comforting. Although he made some mistakes in his life, we were beyond proud of what he had made of his life. He had endured a lifetime of adversity and never gave up. He was a fighter, both mentally and physically. He battled daily to get himself to the next level but he always made the time to connect with friends and was known as the life of the party. Tyler never made it back to school that weekend. As he and his friend & teammate headed back to school for an early morning practice, Tyler fell asleep at the wheel and both boys were involved in an unexpected and tragic automobile accident.

This accident has been catastrophic to our entire family, his friends and our community and in many ways it still doesn’t feel like it is real. We battle with the loss everyday but in our weakest moments, we try to channel the strength that Tyler lived his life with. Since the accident, we have been blessed by such an amazing group of friends and family that have put their lives on hold to help us pick ours back up. The entire community has lifted us up during our darkest hours and filled us with pictures, videos and stories of what Tyler meant to them, every bit of which has made us even more proud of the man that he became. He was big, strong, fast and powerful but was also gentle, kind and caring. He loved football but loved people more. He was passionate, driven and relentless. He enjoyed being the life of the party but was committed to working hard to make up for the down time. He had a smile that could light up a room and a gift for making people laugh. He was special and he is missed.

His passing has left a void in our lives that can never be replaced however, our commitment to telling his story and to giving back to others as he did, now fills that space. In one of his last writings in his College English Class, Tyler described his values as “Family, Faith, Trust, Loyalty and Honesty”. He went further to explain that he wanted to “help people with their problems, always keep it real and be a natural leader.”

Tyler had a very good start to his goal of becoming a Division 1 athlete but he also was well aware that sometimes things do not go as scripted. In his writing he says “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 will continue to work hard”. Reading back over the countless stories and memories that have been shared with us, I am so proud that Tyler was able to accomplish what he set out to do with his life and that he left an amazing impact on everyone that he connected with. Tyler left us with a legacy of Excellence, Generosity and Service and we will build on his history of overcoming adversity. Our mission is to honor the life of our son and the community which helped lift us up when we were too weak to get up on our own. Fly High my son!!!!

“Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life.”

— Roy T. Bennett

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

— Rumi

“You will never truly know yourself or the strength of your relationships until both have been tested by adversity.”

— J. K. Rowling

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”

— From an Irish Headstone

“Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.”

— James Lane Allen

“Adversity introduces a man to himself.”

— Albert Einstein

“In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”

— Albert Einstein

“There are moments when troubles enter our lives and we can do nothing to avoid them. But they are there for a reason. Only when we have overcome them will we understand why they were there.”

— Paulo Coelho

“Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.”

— Dennis P. Kimbro


Help us honor Tyler’s legacy by helping young people realize their college dreams. It doesn’t take much to change a life. Donate today and make a difference.