Charles Tillman was presented with the 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award Feb. 1 in New York. But the Bears cornerback made sure that he wasn’t the only one who received something special.
Less than 24 hours after winning the prestigious award—the only league honor that recognizes a player’s community service as well as his playing excellence—Tillman gave his two tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII to a New Jersey paramedic whose brother had been killed while serving in Iraq.
Greg Doltz initially thought it was a joke, but he quickly realized that the offer was legitimate after speaking to Tillman’s wife, Jackie, on the phone. Tillman had written on his Twitter account the morning of the Super Bowl that he was looking to give his tickets to a deserving military family.
Doltz’s friend, Neeraj Singh, responded with information about Ryan Doltz, an Army sergeant who lost his life in Iraq on June 5, 2004 when the vehicle he was traveling in was hit by an improvised explosive device. He was 26.
The Tillmans, who have operated the Cornerstone Foundation since 2005, were especially interested to learn about the “Remembering Ryan” foundation that the Doltz family runs to memorialize and honor Ryan.
According to its website, the organization assists worthy individuals and charitable organizations with contributions and gifts. The foundation provides scholarships to students at Dover High School in New Jersey and the Virginia Military Institute, two schools that Ryan attended.
Doltz, who attended the Super Bowl with his wife Tiffany, was grateful to Tillman for the tickets and for honoring his late brother.
“It’s amazing that he still thinks about the military and the families and tries to help them,” Doltz said. “I would have never gone to a Super Bowl. I don’t make enough money to do anything like that. Just the fact that he was willing to give his tickets to somebody was heartfelt.”
Having grown up the son of an Army sergeant and living on bases in Kansas, California, Texas and Germany, Tillman is an avid supporter of the military. He 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 Bears games at Soldier Field.
In 2012, Tillman won the NFL’s Salute to Service Award, which recognizes those who honor and support members of the military community. The award was presented by USAA, the NFL’s official military appreciation sponsor, which contributed $25,000 in Tillman’s name to the aid societies representing all five military branches.
In 2010, Tillman took part in an eight-day USO tour to visit U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait. He traveled to Camp Buehring and Camp Virginia in Kuwait, spent three nights in Baghdad and flew over Saddam Hussein’s former palace complex in a Black Hawk helicopter. Tillman also visited Joint Base Balad in Iraq for a meet-and-greet with service members and dined with troops.
In 2012, Tillman returned home to Fort Hood in Texas 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.
During Pro Bowl festivities in January 2013 in Hawaii, Tillman and fellow NFL all-stars visited Schofield Army Barracks to greet wounded warriors who recently returned from an extended deployment in Afghanistan. The NFC and AFC squads also practiced at a Pearl Harbor military base in front of thousands of service members and their families.