We often talk about the XFL legends of 2020, but we forget the names that tried to build the league the first time around in 2001. Although the XFL was a failure the first time around, there’s no doubt that a lot of folks put a lot of effort in making the leagues initial run a success. One of those guys, former New York/New Jersey head coach Rusty Tillman.
It’s with a heavy heart that we must announce that he has passed away at the age of 75. The Seattle Seahawks, where he spent 17 years as an assistant, posted a heartfelt message earlier this evening.
Tillman was nicknamed “The King” for his special teams mastery. He played seven different special teams positions and served as special teams captain from 1974 to 1977. Not to mention, he was a member of Washington’s 1972 NFC Championship squad.
After retiring from football, Tillman stayed in the NFL as an assistant coach for the Seattle Seahawks for 16 years, where he coached special teams, tight ends, linebackers before becoming defensive coordinator. He also spent time as assistant with Tampa Bay, Oakland, Indianapolis and Minnesota.
He served as head coach of the XFL’s (2001) New York/New Jersey Hitmen; uninterested in the sports entertainment approach the league was taking, Tillman mostly took a straight approach to coaching in the league, refusing to get wrapped up in the publicity stunts. Tillman was called “Gutless Rusty” by WWF announcer and sitting Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, who as part of a publicity stunt, came out of his XFL broadcast booth to try to provoke a response from Tillman near the end of the league’s week 4 telecast; Tillman turned away and refused to answer him.
We never look forward to these types of posts, but we’ll keep the Tillman family in our prayers.