SIOUX CITY, Ia. Daniel Tillo has demonstrated his remarkable athletic gifts in five high school sports, including three on the varsity level as a senior.
But the Sioux City North talent also has a talent seen in hallways and classrooms far from the spotlight.
He also likes sharing his time with students possessing learning disabilities and with Special Olympics athletes.
“I just talk to them whenever I see them,” Tillo said. “They love giving high fives.”
Tillo, who can take center stage on the athletic field or quietly show kindness to others, has been named The Des Moines Register’s male high school athlete of the year.
As a senior, he won the Mr. Iowa Basketball award as the state’s top basketball player. He quarterbacked the football team. He was all-state in baseball, a sport he’ll play at Kentucky.
Tillo compiled a 2.8 grade-point average at North. His toughest subject was math, especially Algebra II.
“It was always so tough for me,” Tillo said. “If you miss one day, you’re behind.”
Like an athlete overcoming an on-field obstacle, Tillo put in extra time to achieve a better performance in the subject.
That struggle may have given him a perspective on other students who face classroom challenges.
His most difficult on-field duty was playing quarterback — reading coverage and throwing to the right receiver when quick thinking is required.
Tillo’s dad, Vince, was an all-state basketball player. He also helped develop Daniel’s athletic skills.
“He taught me how to hit. He taught me how to shoot,” Tillo said. “He was really my first coach.”
North basketball coach Cody Fisher first saw Tillo when Fisher was an assistant at South Sioux City in Nebraska. Tillo was a freshman.
Mike Gesell, a future Iowa Hawkeye, tenaciously guarded Tillo, but the freshman poured in 18 points in the first half through talent and a will to succeed.
“At halftime, you could just see the look in his eyes. He wanted to win,” Fisher said.
Tillo, a four-year starter, averaged more than 20 points a game in his career. He was named a Des Moines Sunday Register first-team all-stater three times.
He was named Mr. Iowa Basketball after the season.
“It’s definitely the most exciting award I’ve ever won,” Tillo said.
When college recruiters approached, though, it was baseball that gave him the best opportunities.
A left-hander who can rocket a fastball at nearly 90 miles an hour opens a lot of doors.
“I felt like I had a higher ceiling in baseball,” Tillo said. “It was a business decision, in a way.”
Tillo enjoyed both playing with elite athletes and sharing his time with his teammates.
“He really enjoys being part of the gang,” Fisher said. “He’s never going to big-time you.”
DANIEL TILLO AT A GLANCE
SCHOOL: Sioux City North
SPORTS: Football, basketball, baseball
HIGHLIGHTS: A three-time Des Moines Sunday Register all-state basketball player who won Mr. Iowa Basketball honors as a senior… finished his career with 2,016 points… helped his team reach three consecutive state tournaments… compiled nearly 3,000 yards passing and rushing as North’s quarterback as a senior… went 5-1 as a pitcher this past summer with 68 strikeouts in 50 innings and a 3.08 earned-run average… hit .373 and was named second-team all-state by the Iowa Newspaper Association… A five-year letterwinner in baseball who also played junior varsity tennis in the spring and was on the track team as a freshman.
FUTURE: Baseball at Kentucky
PAST BOYS’ WINNERS
• 2014: Brandon Snyder, West Lyon
• 2013: Jeremy Morgan, Iowa City West
• 2012: James Harrington, Cedar Falls
• 2011: Austin Blythe, Williamsburg
• 2010: Harrison Barnes, Ames
• 2009: Keenan Davis, Cedar Rapids Washington
• 2008: Willie Argo, Davenport Assumption
• 2007: Tyler Nielsen, Humboldt
• 2006: Zac Sandvig, W.D.M. Valley
• 2005: Greg Offerman, Charles City