Tillman named NFL Man of the Year
February 1, 2014
Bears cornerback Charles Tillman has been recognized for his charity work with the Cornerstone Foundation by being named the winner of the 2013 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
The prestigious award, which is named after the late Bears Hall of Fame running back, is the only league honor that recognizes a player’s community service as well as his playing excellence.
An emotional Tillman received the award from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell Saturday night at the NFL Honors awards show at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
Wiping away tears, Tillman thanked his wife, his friends, previous winners, the commissioner, the Payton family, and the Cornerstone Foundation’s Amy Grieme and board of directors.
The Man of the Year Award has been in existence since 1970 and honors NFL players who demonstrate outstanding balance in their lives between civic and professional responsibilities.
In 1999, the NFL named the award after Payton as a tribute to his greatness both on and off the field. The Bears legend died on Nov. 1, 1999 of liver disease at the age of 45.
“As a Chicago Bear, this honor of course has great meaning to me, and it’s pretty sweet bringing Walter back home,” Tillman said. “Please know how humbled and honored I am to be receiving this award. I’m just the face of our foundation and we have so many unsung heroes.”
The other two finalists for the award were Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis and Arizona Cardinals kicker Jay Feely. Tillman was also a finalist in 2011.
The selection panel consists of Goodell, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Hall of Famers Frank Gifford and Anthony Munoz, 2012 winner Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys, Sports Illustrated writer Peter King and Connie Payton, Walter’s widow.
By winning the award, Tillman will receive a $25,000 donation in addition to the $1,000 he was given for being named the Bears’ nominee.
Tillman has shown a passion for football and giving to those in need since he arrived in Chicago in 2003 after being selected by the Bears in the second round of the draft out of Louisiana-Lafayette.
In 11 seasons, the two-time Pro Bowler has set Bears career records with nine defensive touchdowns, eight interception return TDs and 675 interception return yards. Since Tillman entered the league, he is the only NFL player with more than 30 interceptions and 30 forced fumbles.
Tillman’s contributions off of the field are equally as impressive as his work on it. Since he created the Cornerstone Foundation, his efforts have impacted over one million children and raised over $1 million. The foundation’s signature programs include “Charles’ Locker,” “Field of Dreams,” “Holiday Celebration,” “TendHER Heart Luncheon” and “The Tiana Fund.”
Charles’ Locker provides pediatric hospital patients with access to iPads, laptops, gaming systems and other kinds of entertainment to help pass the time during their hospital stays and annually reaches more than 370,000 children. The Tiana Fund has distributed more than $1 million to over 300 families who have been identified by local organizations as at-risk or in-need. The support is provided to families and individuals to strengthen their ability to care for themselves, enhance their stability and security, and improve their quality of life.
The foundation initially provided children with educational opportunities and resources to excel in the classroom. But after Tillman’s three-month-old daughter, Tiana, was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy and received a life-saving heart transplant in 2008, the mission was changed to improving the lives of critically and chronically ill children.
“I believe we all have a responsibility to lend a helping hand in the service of others in their times of need,” Tillman said in accepting the award. “Because of a donor my daughter Tiana is alive and she’s healthy and she’s thriving, and I’ve got the strength and joy from knowing that.”
Tillman and his wife, Jackie, also contribute their time and resources to local, national and international organizations outside of the Cornerstone Foundation. The Tillmans have helped build a school in Cambodia, sponsored children through the Urban Promise program in Camden, New Jersey, and have purchased and donated over 700 tickets to Bears home games since 2008 through the Bears Home Team Hand-Off program.
Tillman is also an avid supporter of the military, and has participated in a USO tour to Iraq, volunteered with the USO of Illinois on Thanksgiving to serve meals to local troops, and provided soldiers with tickets to games at Soldier Field.