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Members of '85 Bears impressed with Tillman
November 21st, 2012

Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation, prolanthropyCornerback Charles Tillman was only four years old when the famed 1985 Bears crushed the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX, capping a magical and unforgettable season.

Twenty-seven years later, members of that team—which is still considered one of the best in NFL history—have been impressed with what Tillman has accomplished with the 2012 Bears.

“He has become a perfectionist at stripping the ball, and I have to give him props,” said Dennis McKinnon, a starting wide receiver on the 1985 Bears. “He’ll tell you that he wasn’t the player he is today years ago. He’s playing with such confidence, and it’s wonderful watching him play.”

After being voted to his first Pro Bowl last season, Tillman has continued to receive the recognition he deserves, especially when it comes to his ability to punch the ball out of the hands of opponents.

The Louisiana Lafayette product forced a career-high four fumbles Nov. 4 in a 51-20 win over the Tennessee Titans, increasing his career total to 36 forced fumbles, the most by a defensive back and the second most overall since he entered the NFL in 2003.

“It’s just a tremendous asset to the defense,” said Otis Wilson, a starting linebacker on the 1985 Bears. “One great thing about it is when you have success and you’re playing well, it’s contagious.”

Tillman was named NFC defensive player of the month for October after returning interceptions for touchdowns in back-to-back road wins in Dallas and Jacksonville, and holding star receiver Calvin Johnson to three receptions for 34 yards in a 13-7 win over the Detroit Lions.

“His demeanor doesn’t change,” McKinnon said. “He plays every down. He never quits, and that’s the quintessential player that wears a Bears uniform.”

Tillman owns the franchise record with seven defensive TDs, ahead of longtime teammates Lance Briggs (5) and Mike Brown (4) and Bennie McRae (4), who played with the Bears from 1962-70.

Tillman’s 32 career interceptions are tied with Donnell Woolford for the most by a Bears cornerback and are third overall behind safeties Gary Fencik (38) and Richie Petitbon (37).

Tillman and former Eagles and Broncos safety Brian Dawkins are the only NFL players since 1991 to record at least 30 forced fumbles and 30 interceptions. 

With Tillman’s ability to create takeaways, it’s intriguing to imagine him playing on a 1985 Bears defense that’s considered by many to be the best in NFL history. The unit featured three Hall of Famers in linemen Richard Dent and Dan Hampton and middle linebacker Mike Singletary.

“He would fit in with any team at any level in the history of the league,” said Jay Hilgenberg, a starting center on the 1985 Bears who was voted to start seven straight Pro Bowls. “Even 50 years in the future there would be a spot for him.”

As co-host of a Bears’ pre-game radio show on flagship station WBBM Newsradio 780 and 105.9 FM, Hilgenberg arrives at Soldier Field extremely early—but never before Tillman.

“I just have so much respect for him as a professional,” Hilgenberg said. “I come to the games really early and he’s in that locker room three or four hours before the game starting to get ready. What he brings to the field of play is just that level of commitment and belief and confidence.”