Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was honored by his hometown last month when Copperas Cove, Texas, held a ceremony naming a street after the two-time Pro Bowler.
“Charles Tillman Way” is expected to be completed in June.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” Tillman said. “I’m from a small country town and I never in a million years thought I’d have my own street named after me. I remember growing up there, going to all the football games, and being a product of the community. It was good to go back and have them honor me like that. I was pretty humbled for that honor.”
The son of an Army sergeant, Tillman graduated from Copperas Cove High School before heading to the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Located near Fort Hood in central Texas, Copperas Cove is a military town with a population of about 33,000.
Tillman hopes that he and other Copperas Cove natives—such as Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III—can inspire children to achieve even the loftiest of goals.
“I hope I can show kids that no matter where you come from, even a small town like Copperas Cove, you can go out and do big things,” Tillman said. “You have me, Robert Griffin; we probably have had six or seven guys play in the league. Hopefully I can give other kids a passion and a dream that they can go out and do big things too.”
When the street was named in his honor, Tillman was joined by several members of his family.
“It’s special that they honored me, and one of the cool things was that it was like a little mini-reunion,” Tillman said. “I was able to see my parents, all my aunts, my cousins and my grandmother. It was an amazing time to share that moment with them.”
Tillman may be Copperas Cove’s most well-known native son. Since joining the Bears in 2003, he has become one of the best defensive players in franchise history. He owns Bears career records with nine defensive touchdowns, eight interception return TDs and 675 interception return yards.
Tillman's 36 career interceptions are the most by a cornerback in Bears history and third most overall behind safeties Gary Fencik (38) and Richie Petitbon (37).
Since entering the NFL, Tillman is the league's only player with at least 30 interceptions and 30 forced fumbles. During that span he is second in forced fumbles, tied for fifth in interceptions, fifth in interception return yards and tied for second in interception return TDs.
Off the field, Tillman's contributions are equally impressive. He was selected the 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year primarily for his work with the Cornerstone Foundation. Since its inception in 2005, Tillman's efforts have impacted over one million Chicago-area children and raised more than $1 million.
During a recent interview in conjunction with a military event, Griffin discussed the influence that Tillman had on him while growing up in Copperas Cove.
“I was in junior high school and he was fresh into the league, doing a good job,” Griffin said. “A lot of kids like myself looked up to him back in Copperas Cove. He came back and we were playing basketball. I was real shy and I didn’t want to ask him for his autograph. He doesn’t remember this, but I walked up to him asking for his autograph and he told me, ‘Keep at it young buck, my friend is telling me that you’ve got a lot of success ahead.’
"I told him after the game we played this year that it was an honor to play against this guy. He kind of showed a lot of the young kids in Copperas Cove -- the military brats -- that you can make it, no matter what's going on, how many times you move, no matter what happens with your family in the military. And he also showed that you gotta give back."