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The Story Behind the Peanut Punch T-Shirts
November 30th, 2012

Watching Charles Tillman force two fumbles in the Bears’ 13-7 win over the Lions Oct. 22 gave George Ellis an idea that has raised a lot of money for the cornerback’s foundation.

Ellis, the managing editor and co-founder of the satirical sports website “The Heckler,” was inspired to create a “Peanut Punch” t-shirt after seeing Tillman twice smack footballs out of the hands of Detroit tight end Brandon Pettigrew.

“We wanted to make shirts for him or about him,” Ellis said. “He’s always doing that punch thing, so I thought: ‘Why don’t we just do a ‘Peanut Punch’ like that old Batman ‘pow’ [from the 1960s TV show starring Adam West]?’ It really came out of us just trying to create a cool little shirt.”

After someone on Twitter suggested The Heckler should donate a portion of the t-shirt sales to Tillman’s Cornerstone Foundation, Ellis happily obliged, offering $5 for each shirt sold.

“We launched it on our website store, and every time we launch something we tweet it out,” Ellis said. “Within a few hours, Charles had actually retweeted it himself, and it spread from there. It almost crashed the site. We didn’t think that it was going to have the reach that it ended up having.”

What happened next was pure magic. Four days after the t-shirts were launched, Tillman forced a career high four fumbles in a 51-20 rout of the Tennessee Titans.

The performance gave Tillman a league-high seven forced fumbles this season and 36 in his career, the most by any NFL defensive back since he joined the Bears as a second-round pick in 2003.

“It was just one of those fortuitous timing things that you can’t predict,” Ellis said. “The fact that the shirt hit right before he had one of the best games of his career, you can’t really ask for a better situation. I was watching that game thinking: ‘He just did [what’s on] the shirt again.’”

Ellis marvels at Tillman’s ability to punch the ball away from opponents on such a regular basis.

“I think it’s amazing,” Ellis said. “I haven’t seen anyone else who is able to do that. I saw an interview with Brian Urlacher and he was saying that hand-eye coordination is what makes it so lethal when Tillman is doing it as opposed to other people who try it. He seems to have the ability to do it from any angle at any time even when they know it’s coming.”

Tillman hoped that 2,000 t-shirts would be sold, raising $10,000 to pay for the annual holiday party he hosts at a Chicago area children’s hospital. Ellis reports that The Heckler has sold roughly 1,700 shirts with a couple hundred also being purchased via their partnership with Clark Street Sports.

“We thought that was pretty ambitious, but we’re pretty close to that $10,000 goal,” Ellis said.

Tillman created the Cornerstone Foundation in 2005 to provide children with educational opportunities and resources to excel in the classroom. After his three-month-old daughter, Tiana, was diagnosed with a rare heart disorder and received a life-saving heart transplant in 2008, he changed the foundation’s mission to improving the lives of critically and chronically ill children.

“The one thing you always hear about Tillman is that he’s a great guy off the field, both through his foundation and the stories about his daughter in the past,” Ellis said. “That’s part of what’s fun that he’s finally getting that national recognition that he didn’t get earlier in his career.”

Ellis works closely with Brad Zibung, his co-founder at The Heckler, designing an array of t-shirts. Other Bears players featured on shirts include Urlacher, Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall. The Peanut Punch shirt remains the No. 1 seller, however.

“I think it’s cool,” Tillman said. “I never thought I’d have my own shirt. And from what I’ve heard, they’re selling like hotcakes. They’re going pretty quick.”

Click here to visit The Heckler Store.


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