They say the NFL is now a 24-7, 365-days-a-year league. Not so long ago, the season ended in January and then players would seemingly hibernate until August. Today, pro football players work around the clock, even in the offseason. Despite that daunting gridiron-based schedule Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman is proof that you can work hard at other things along the way as well. This Bear never hibernates.
Tillman is one of the best in the business. The man known as “Peanut” is so money he often draws the unenviable task of covering the Calvin Johnsons of the world. Tillman gave the great Randy Moss fits. He is a shutdown corner. But perhaps more impressive is the amazing work Tillman does off the field.
The Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation provides opportunities and resources to children or their families who are in need. This is an initiative that is extremely personal in the Tillman household. In May of 2008, Tillman’s daughter Tiana, was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy when she was just three months old. Just a couple of months later she received a heart transplant. A challenge for Tillman much greater than blanketing any wide receiver.
“When our daughter got sick, so many people dedicated so much time in helping her get better,” Tillman told Breitbart Sports. “How can you not want to give back after going through something like this?”
Give back he has. Tillman’s foundation has raised big money to assist kids in precarious situations.
Many players in pro sports have foundations or charitable organizations with their name on it. Tillman, however, seems more personally involved in his than most. He is committed to making a difference, putting the effort in to help children. Working just as hard as he competes on Sundays. This uncanny focus could be traced back to Tillman’s childhood. Growing up in a military family, Tillman learned important life lessons early on in his life.
“I’m passionate about serving other people,” said Tillman. “I think that was instilled in me being from a military home. Service members protect our nation. Actually, no…not just our nation…they protect the world. The least we can do is spread love and joy whenever possible. These men and women sometimes pay the ultimate price for us. They are the heroes.”
If you wonder how Tillman seems so calm and cool even when matching-up against the NFL’s best pass catchers, it’s probably because he’s already faced and conquered much bigger obstacles. As a child of military parents, Tillman attended 11 different schools from kindergarten through high school. Moving around so much, he felt as if he never fit in and was bullied by other kids. Then, of course, he had to face the anguish of dealing with his daughter’s sickness.
“I definitely see similarities in what I gained from my family’s military background and my daughter’s situation,” Tillman said. “Both taught me about what’s really important. Our mission, our life’s purpose is to love one another.”
Charles Tillman has made multiple Pro Bowls. He’s been named an All-Pro. He has the most defensive touchdowns in the Bears long and illustrious history. His list of accomplishments goes on and on. Nothing however compares to the honor Tillman received earlier this year. Tillman was named NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year. The award, named after the late Bears Hall of Fame running back, is the only league honor that recognizes a player’s community service as well as his playing excellence.
“The Payton award it is by far, single handedly the greatest accomplishment of my career,” Tillman said. “It’s about giving back and serving. I don’t do this to get awards, but to give back and also being a Bear, there is a specialness that comes with this award.”
After winning the honor, Tillman got to spend time with Payton’s wife Connie and the Payton children Jarrett and Brittney. “Eating dinner with them and listening to stories about Walter, I got to know him more as a man, a husband, and a father,” Tillman said. “I found out he was a better man than football player.” That’s saying something.
Tillman has an uncanny knack for stripping the football. The “Peanut Punch” has become almost legendary in Chicago. Truth is he enjoys punching problems kids are facing even more than dislodging the pigskin.
There’s great joy in knowing you can make a real difference in someone’s life. Tillman has had a hand in helping countless others through his foundation and just in general. Many times his actions go unnoticed. Tillman gave his two tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII to a New Jersey paramedic whose brother had been killed while serving in Iraq. That’s the kind of man he is.
As for Tillman’s little girl Tiana, she is thriving. “She’s six now and playing soccer,” Tillman said. “She’s busy scoring goals.” Winning runs in the family. When not tearing up the field, Tiana spends time with her siblings Talya, Tysen and Tessa, and her parents Charles and Jackie. A normal, happy child with an extraordinary backstory.
The Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation’s next big event is coming up on June 12 at Kings Lanes, Lounge & Sports in Rosemont’s entertainment district. It’s a big bowling tournament with the proceeds going to critically and chronically ill children. “It’s a night of fine bowling and fine dining,” Tillman told Breitbart Sports. “You can purchase a team or attend with general admission.”
Those who purchase a team will have the chance to bowl with a Bears player. As to which Monster of the Midway to keep an eye on at the bowling alley, Tillman points to his fellow opportunistic cornerback Tim Jennings. “Jennings is great,” said Tillman. “I’m terrible at bowling.”
While Tillman and Jennings are star defensive backs for Chicago, they are getting up there in age. Tillman is 33 (in years and jersey number) while Jennings will turn 31 during the 2014 season. So the Bears got them some secondary help in the recent NFL draft selecting Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech. The Bears stocked up on defense in fact. The club took beefy defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton on Day Two. They even picked a punter. All this new talent will join offseason acquisitions Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Austen Lane, Trevor Scott, and Israel Idonije, a Bear once again.
The new look defense led by Tillman, Jennings and Lance Briggs will compliment a high octane offense that set records last season. “We now have a complete team,” Tillman said. “On paper we look amazing. We just have to go out and do it.”
We’ll have to wait a few months to see how the Bears look in the upcoming season. For now, we know one thing for sure. Charles “Peanut” Tillman will continue to do all he can for kids and military members. He never hibernates.
For more on Charles Tillman’s Cornerstone Foundation including information on Charles Tillman’s Celebrity ProBowler Tournament visit www.charlestillman.org.