November 2nd, 2012
The month of October was a very memorable one for Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, who made a difference on the football field as well as in the community.
Tillman was named NFC defensive player of the month after helping lead the Bears to a 4-0 record by returning two interceptions for touchdowns and limiting Lions Pro Bowl receiver Calvin Johnson to three receptions for a season-low 34 yards.
“If you don’t have athletic ability, you don’t have a chance,”said coach Lovie Smith. “From there it’s experience, know-how, working hard and just constantly improving your craft. All those things are what Charles Tillman is about.”
Tillman’s touchdowns came on returns of 25 yards in Dallas and 36 yards in Jacksonville in back-to-back games, earning him NFC defensive player of the week honors after both contests.
“We’ve said it for quite a while here: He’s a special player, and everybody’s starting to see it right now,” said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
Selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2003 draft out of Louisiana Lafayette, Tillman is now the franchise’s all-time leader with eight defensive touchdowns.
“He gets better every single year,” said middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. “He’s always gone after the football. He’s perfect for our defense. He’s a big corner for cover-two, and he’s a good ‘man’ corner. He’s over the top, and he can tackle. Our corners have to tackle, and he can do that.”
Tillman has also been making an impact off the field on behalf of his Cornerstone Foundation. He returned home to Fort Hood, Texas, Oct. 11 to deliver a “Charles Tillman Locker” filled with portable DVD players and DVDs to patients at the Darnall Army Medical Center.
Tillman has previously donated lockers to chronically and critically ill children and their families, providing them with access to iPads, notebook computers, DVD players, portable PlayStation game systems and other electronic handheld games to pass time during recovery and treatment.
On Oct. 29, Tillman hosted a Cornerstone Foundation benefit at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Northbrook that featured hors d’oeuvres, a four-course menu and fine wine.
Tillman was just as busy on the field, tying Donnell Woolford for the most career picks by a Bears cornerback with 32, the third most overall in franchise history behind safeties Gary Fencik (38) and Richie Petitbon (37).
Tillman didn’t have an interception against the Lions, but may have played his best game to date by containing Johnson in a 13-7 win at Soldier Field.
Bears receiver Brandon Marshall was impressed with the effort, saying: “When you see Charles work, it’s like art. The way he played the fades in the red zone, just his body position on certain routes, breaking up slants, it was just art in the making.”
Tillman has also perfected the art of stripping the ball from opponents; his 32 forced fumbles are the most by an NFL defensive back since he entered the league.
Asked if he’s ever coached a player who was as proficient at stripping the ball, Marinelli said: “No, never ever. I don’t know if there’s ever been anybody in the league like that, that good at it. I mean he does it every day, and they’re holding the ball tight. It’s awesome what he can do.”
Tillman has joined former Eagles and Broncos safety Brian Dawkins as the only players since 1991 to have at least 30 interceptions and 30 forced fumbles.
“[Tillman] is such a talented player,” said linebacker Lance Briggs. “The things he is able to do, I think for many years people have kind of taken it for granted. Some of the attention has gone to a lot of different cornerbacks, but Peanut’s consistency has always been there.
“I think it’s great that more people are noticing it. He has done some things in the NFL that no one has ever done before and people will try to mimic years after.”