French Phenomenon

Phuc Pham | New University

Phuc Pham | New University

Senior Kevin Tillie made the move from France to the States to pursue his love for volleyball.

UC Irvine’s very own Frenchman volleyball superstar Kevin Tillie has had an extraordinary journey to success. From the French Riviera to Southern California, Tillie’s story is très magnifique.

Often referred to as “Air France,” no. 7 Kevin Tillie plays as an outside hitter for UCI’s men’s volleyball team. The 6-foot-6-inches tall senior has undoubtedly made his mark at UCI, as he and his teammates play vigorously to maintain the university’s Division I ranking.

Born in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, Tillie, his parents and his two brothers make up the ultimate “athletic family.” His father Laurent played volleyball for the French Olympic team in 1992 and his mother Caroline played professionally for the Netherlands. Kevin is the middle child of three brothers.

“My oldest brother Kim went to the University of Utah and now plays basketball professionally in Europe. My youngest brother Killian, who’s 14, is [a prospect] for both basketball and volleyball. What people don’t know is that I’m the shortest sibling,” Tillie said.

This 2012-2013 volleyball season is Tillie’s second and last season playing for UCI, as he plans to finish all his courses and graduate in June. Tillie transferred to UCI as a sociology major after his sophomore year of college at Thompson Rivers University in Canada.

“After I finished high school in France, I wanted to come to the U.S., but the application process from France to the United States is so complicated,” Tillie said.

At Thompson Rivers University, Tillie was named second-team All-Canadian as well as Canada West Athletic Association first all-star team.

“After two years in Canada, I wanted to come to the states,” Tillie said.

Au revoir Canada, bonjour California!

While playing for UCI, Tillie was named first-team All-American as well as first-team All-MPSF and was the AVCA National player of the Year in 2012. On the week of March 5, 2012, Tillie was named MPSA player of the week.

When asked what his plans are after graduation, Tillie responded, “I hope to play professionally in Europe. I have so many years yet to play, so as long as I can, I will.”

Last summer Tillie played volleyball for the French national team. “My dad is the coach for the national team, so I hope to be able to do so again this summer,” he said.

“I go back home [to France] during the summers. It’s so difficult to go during the year because we have practices even when we’re on break, but I don’t really feel home-sick because I’ve been out of the house for a while already. Plus, I love the beach, so being so close to it reminds me of home. When I’m not playing volleyball or going schoolwork, I’m at the beach. I love it!”

It’s undeniable that, with balancing games, practices and classes, things get pretty hectic for student-athletes. When asked what advice he would give to newcomers, Tillie responded, “I would tell them not to think too much about it, just enjoy it.”

From playing together on the court to living together in Newport Beach, the men of UCI’s volleyball team have formed tight bonds with one another.

“They always mock me for being French,” Tillie said jokingly. “They call me ‘Champs-Elysees’ or French names like ‘Jacques.’”

When asked what are some things that most people don’t know about him, Tillie responded, “Most people don’t know I’m French because I don’t have an accent. I also eat pasta … every day! And I wear scarves a lot; I love them.”

Tillie’s voyage to volleyball stardom has undoubtedly been a unique ride. Moving to and from many foreign countries was definitely not an easy transition, but it’s what adds to his overall exceptionality.