Like countless others on social media, Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman recently did the “Ice Bucket Challenge” to help raise awareness and money in the fight against ALS. But the cause is personal to the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback.
Tillman’s former Bears teammate, Tim Shaw, recently revealed that he is suffering from ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It’s estimated that about 30,000 Americans have ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Shaw announced that he was diagnosed with ALS in a video that he posted on the Internet. Tillman found out about it via a text message from his wife, Jackie.
“My jaw dropped,” Tillman said. “I remember I sat there and thought, ‘I played with Tim Shaw. He was a great teammate. He was a special teams beast.’ I’m really still in shock. I’m just trying to reach out to him, let him know we’re here and love him and we’re praying for him.”
Shaw, a linebacker, played one of his six NFL seasons with the Bears in 2009, appearing in 15 games and setting a team record that still stands with 30 special teams tackles. Shaw also played for the Carolina Panthers (2007), Jacksonville Jaguars (2008) and Tennessee Titans (2010-12).
“The main thing I remember about being teammates with Tim is that he is a godly man,” Tillman said. “That’s the first thought that came to my mind. He’s a very spiritual Christian. I also remember the way we used to joke around in the locker room and that he’s a very upbeat guy.”
Shaw revealed that he was diagnosed with ALS in a video on the Titans’ website. He closes it by doing the Ice Bucket Challenge after saying: “A year ago I was playing NFL football. I’ve recently been diagnosed with ALS. I’m here today to stand up and fight with all of you against this disease. I want to challenge the Tennessee Titans organization, coach [James] Franklin and the Penn State football team and my Clarenceville community [in Livonia, Mich.]. Let’s do this.”
When Tillman did the Ice Bucket Challenge, he challenged Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“I could’ve challenged anybody, but Green Bay is our rival,” Tillman said. “The only bad thing is that [Rodgers] had already done it. I texted him and sent him the video and he said, ‘Nice try, but I already did it.’ And then I looked it up online and I was like, ‘Oh man.’”
The Ice Bucket Challenge has taken the nation by storm this summer. According to its website, the ALS Association has received $94.3 million in donations from July 29-August 27 compared to $2.7 million during the same time period last year.
The ALS Association’s mission includes “providing care services to assist people with ALS and their families through a network of chapters working in communities across the nation and a global research program focused on the discovery of treatments and eventually a cure for the disease.”
“I think whoever came up with the Ice Bucket Challenge is a genius,” Tillman said. “There’s a lot of awareness for cancer and things like that, but a lot of people don’t know what ALS is. The [Ice Bucket] concept is great. Everyone’s doing it—celebrities, non-celebrities.
"To me, it's great marketing. It's great awareness for them. We all wear pink and we know about breast cancer. But do we really know what ALS is? By everyone in the United States and the world participating in this Ice Bucket Challenge, it's bringing a tremendous amount of awareness to this disease."