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Tillman: Pro Bowl gives service members rare chance to see pros
January 31st, 2013

Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation, prolanthropyThe tropical climate certainly is nice, but that’s not the main reason Bears cornerback Charles Tillman hopes the NFL continues to play the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.

Tillman, whose father spent 20 years in the Army, understands that the annual all-star game is the only opportunity for many service members to see professional athletes up close. 

The NFC beat the AFC 62-35 in the Pro Bowl last Sunday, a few days after both squads practiced at a Pearl Harbor military base in front of thousands of service members and their families.

“I feel like the Pro Bowl needs to stay in Hawaii, one reason being that these men and women and their families don’t have the opportunity to go to a pro game being that they’re so far away off the mainland in Hawaii,” Tillman said earlier this week on ESPN Radio Central Texas. 

“It’s probably one of the only professional sports events to come [to Hawaii]. They don’t have basketball, they don’t have hockey. It’s great for the state. It’s great for the fans. It really is a great time, and the people of Hawaii are awesome to work with. They show us nothing but hospitality.”

During the Bears’ bye week this season, Tillman returned home to Fort Hood to visit the Darnall Army Medical Center, donating a “Charles’ Locker” on behalf of his Cornerstone Foundation that was filled with iPads, notebook computers, DVD players, portable PlayStation game systems and other electronic handheld games to help patients pass the time during recovery and treatment.

“The military has provided my family with a lot of opportunities, and it’s been an instrumental part of my life, from the commitment to teamwork to dedication,” Tillman said. “From what the military taught my dad, he instilled those same values in me.

“I’m just trying to give back to the military, whether it’s the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force or Coast Guard, and just let them know that I really appreciate them for what they do every day.”

During the radio interview, Tillman also discussed the Bears’ recent coaching change.

Tillman played the last nine years under coach Lovie Smith and was disappointed when he was fired on Dec. 31. With Smith gone, veteran defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli left the Bears to become defensive line coach with the Dallas Cowboys.

“[Smith] represented that black and blue division, the Monsters of the Midway, him and Rod Marinelli both,” Tillman said. “They brought that hard-nosed football back to Chicago.

“Historically, the Bears are known for their defenses. You’ve got Mike Singletary, Otis Wilson, Dick Butkus, Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael. You can go on and on about all the old school defensive greats in Chicago, and they really brought that back.

“I was thankful and honored that I was a part of [Smith’s] watch and I could be there to work with him and have him work with me and help me become a better person and a better player.”

The Bears replaced Smith with Marc Trestman, who won two Grey Cup Championships during five seasons as head coach of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes from 2008-12. Prior to that, he spent 17 years in the NFL as an offensive coordinator and position coach.

Trestman, who is known for getting the most out of quarterbacks such as Steve Young and Rich Gannon, hired Mel Tucker to be his defensive coordinator. Tucker joins the Bears after spending the last five seasons in the same position with the Cleveland Browns (2008) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2009-12).

“I don’t know much about Mel Tucker, but from what I’ve heard they say he is a good coach,” Tillman said. “I’m excited to meet him and hopefully he can lead us to continued success.”