Charles Tillman Returns Back to School to Receive a Prestigious Honor
December 12th, 2012
The Bears cornerback returned to his alma mater, Louisiana Lafayette, in October to be inducted into the college’s Hall of Fame. Tillman was a four-year letterman from 1999-2002 who received All-American recognition while playing for head coaches Jerry Baldwin and Rickey Bustle.
“Charles played at a time when our team didn’t really perform the best on the field, even though Charles always did,” said Louisiana Lafayette associate athletic director John Dugas. “He always carried himself with pride and made the athletic department proud to have him representing us.”
Tillman was induced into the Hall of Fame along with track and field star Jackie Causey and softball standout Danyele Gomez Oct. 6 at halftime of Louisiana Lafayette’s game against Tulane.
“Having him back on campus was not just something that meant a lot to the football team or even the athletic department but all of our alumni base and fans that were here for that game,” Dugas said. “It was really a special event because Charles is someone who will take time for everyone.
“He signed autographs in our tailgating area and talked to everyone. It really meant a lot not just to our athletic department but the entire university and the city of Lafayette to have him back.”
Tillman was humbled by the honor, which he shared with his wife Jackie and their children.
“It meant a lot,” he said. “I didn’t really think that it would happen. I never thought that I’d go into the Hall of Fame, but I ended up going and my family was there. It was a huge honor.”
A talented cornerback at Louisiana Lafayette, Tillman was an All-Independent selection in 2000 and a two-time All-Sun Belt Conference choice, recording 284 career tackles, 12 interceptions, seven fumble recoveries and three blocked punts.
“Charles always would cover the best receiver on the other team,” Dugas recalled. “That’s just what he did. Whoever it was, you just knew he was going to shut him down.
“But in addition to that, just being a great tackler and knowing when to come up and protect against the run, it was almost like having another coach on the field. Knowing the type of leader he was and the type of player he was, you just felt good when he was out on the field. You just knew that good things were about to happen.”
Tillman also performed well in the classroom at Louisiana Lafayette, earning his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in only three and a half years.
“Charles was the type of guy when he was here everybody knew him,” said Dugas, who served as an event management coordinator at Louisiana Lafayette when Tillman attended the school.
“You knew as a student that he was going to do something special. Even if it wasn’t to play in the NFL, he could have pursued many different things. He always carried himself like that.
“He played at a time where we had gone through a couple of head coaches and we weren’t winning a whole lot of games. But he always stayed positive, and even though sometimes in our locker room it wasn’t the best atmosphere, Charles was always very positive and always a great leader.”
Tillman’s success in the NFL is a tremendous example for current Louisiana Lafayette players.
“Being a smaller school, we don’t have a whole lot of our players that do get into the NFL,” Dugas said. “It tells our players: ‘You can do it. This dream you have, if you want to play at the highest level, if you work hard and you do the right thing, you can get there.’ He’s a prime example of that because that’s exactly what he did. It gives all of our current players hope.”
The most important lesson Tillman would like young players to take from him involves hard work.
“Being at this next level is what I really wanted, and I sacrificed a lot,” Tillman said. “I paid that price. I put those long hours in. I went to a school that a lot of people hadn’t even heard of. But yet I’m still here [in the NFL] 10 years later doing what I’ve always wanted to do. Hard work really does pay off. There’s no time limit on hard work.”