Willowbrook's Tumilty added to family legend

  • Willowbrook's Sam Tumilty (6) carries the ball on a keeper against Mt.Carmel during a 7A semifinal football game at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, IL on Saturday, November 23, 2019

    Willowbrook's Sam Tumilty (6) carries the ball on a keeper against Mt.Carmel during a 7A semifinal football game at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, IL on Saturday, November 23, 2019 Sean King for the Daily Herald

Updated 12/6/2019 6:09 PM

When it comes to sports, Sam Tumilty doesn't have a family tree.

It's more like a forest.


Grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings ... pick a relative and you're likely to find a hall of fame plaque, a prime spot in a trophy case or a framed uniform in a gymnasium.

The strongest limb this football season, though, belonged to Willowbrook's senior quarterback and defensive back.

Even with a flood of past family accolades given to Kings, Roths and, of course, Tumiltys, few topped what Sam Tumilty accomplished for the Warriors during his three seasons of football.

Continuing a legacy of family excellence, Tumilty is the 2019 Daily Herald DuPage County Red Grange Football Captain.

"All the people in my family say they had a great time in sports, and they made friends and family for life," he said. "It's something they'll always remember. I'm sure I will too."

Strong as oak

For the hundreds of varsity snaps Tumilty took for the Warriors, his first as a sophomore was unforgettable.

With starting quarterback John Taylor temporarily injured and out for a play. Tumilty, a defensive starter, went in for one read play where the read seemed obvious -- hand the ball to 2,000-yard rusher Jack Jessen.

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Tumilty read it differently. He kept the ball and took off for a 35-yard gain.

"That's him," said Warriors coach Nick Hildreth. "He's what high school football is supposed to be. He's had a greater impact on Willowbrook football games than anyone this program's had."

This season the 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,525 yards and 23 touchdowns while rushing for 1,551 yards and 19 touchdowns. He led the Warriors with 107 tackles and snared 3 interceptions.

That brought his varsity total to 5,100 passing yards, 2,859 rushing, 88 touchdowns, 262 tackles and 9 picks.

"Going into my junior year I really felt like I started to grasp the quarterback position," he said. "I just felt more and more comfortable back there."


At the same time opposing teams felt more uncomfortable trying to contain him.

"In my 20 years of coaching, he's one of my favorite players," said Downers Grove South coach Mark Molinari. "I don't know a kid who's been a better competitor. He just willed his team to victory."

Not far from the tree

Family reunions must seem like all-star games.

Tumilty's father, Scott, was a standout multisport athlete at Naperville Central, a hall of famer at Augustana College and is an assistant football coach at Maine South. It's at Augustana where Scott met Sam's mother, Katie King, a runner and basketball player at Willowbrook who ran cross country at Augustana.

While Scott and his siblings excelled at Naperville Central and beyond, Katie and her siblings did the same at Willowbrook and beyond.

Sam's grandmother's athletic career occurred during the establishment of Title IX. His great grandfather played basketball at Penn State.

Katie, meanwhile, is related to the Roth family. If that name sounds familiar it's because Matt Roth -- an all-state defensive lineman at Willowbrook, all-Big Ten honoree at Iowa and eight-year NFL player -- is her cousin.

"Sports have been a huge part of our family," said Sam, whose two brothers and sister are athletes. "It's just something that's always been a part of our lives."

Deep roots

True to family tradition, Tumilty has no off-season.

Two days after Willowbrook football lost in the playoffs, he played basketball for the Warriors. As soon as that ends, he'll hop into a baseball uniform for a third varsity season.

"People always say what a great athlete he is, but they don't realize how hard he works at everything," said Vic Wisner, the Warriors' baseball coach and assistant football coach. "Somehow he finds time to put in all the work."

When pressed, Tumilty mentions his good grades...he's ranked fourth in his class at Willowbrook.

The ultimate student-athlete gives everything he has to everything he does.

"I figure since I'm in school for seven hours a day, I might as well do my best," he said.

But it's more than that.

"He's the quarterback of the offense and the quarterback of the defense," said Willowbrook senior Deandre Holliday, a teammate since third grade. "He's probably the toughest kid in Illinois. It's hard to imagine someone having more drive than him."

Whether it's the Tumiltys, Kings, Roths or another branch of the family tree, you'll find legends.

Sam Tumilty added to the list this season as Willowbrook advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 1975. In Tumilty's three years the Warriors went 32-5 including three WSC Gold titles and seven playoff victories.

Deep, deep roots.

"We take a lot of pride in what we did," he said. "We weren't the biggest, strongest or fastest guys but we gave everything we had."

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