Apr 28, 2014 5:29 PM by Release
Charles "Peanut" Tillman has had a remarkable, high-profile career as a cornerback for the Chicago Bears. But the former Louisiana Ragin' Cajun four-year letterman has also become known for his generosity off the gridiron.
The combination of athletic performance and community service earned him the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award in February.
Tillman played for the Ragin' Cajuns from 1999 to 2002. In 2002, he received All-American recognition. He was named an All-Independent selection in 2000 and was a two-time All-Sun Belt Conference selection. Tillman received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from UL Lafayette in 3 1/2 years.
He was selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2003 NFL draft. Over the past decade, he has earned a reputation for his ability to force opponents to fumble the football. He has been selected for the Pro Bowl twice.
Tillman's compassion is shown in small, but meaningful ways, such as sending an autographed jersey to a devoted young fan in Ireland suffering from neuroblastoma, cancer of the nerve tissues.
And, it's demonstrated on a bigger scale. The Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation provides opportunities and resources to children, or their families, who are in need. It helps more than 370,000 pediatric patients each year who are seriously ill by providing them with access to iPads, laptops and video game systems while they're hospitalized, for example. It's estimated that since 2005, Tillman's charitable efforts have impacted the lives of over a million Chicago-area children.
Tillman has personal experience caring for a child with a life-threatening medical condition. One of his four children, Tiana, was diagnosed in 2008 with dilated cardiomyopathy. Tillman and his wife were told Tiana needed a heart transplant. She was three months old. Tiana was kept alive on a heart-lung machine until she received a donor's heart three months later. Today, she's thriving.
Tillman, a Chicago native, has an affinity for men and women who serve in the U.S. military and their families. His father had a 20-year Army career. Tillman credits his dad for teaching him life lessons about teamwork, leadership and commitment.
In 2010, Tillman contacted the Army to volunteer to support U.S. troops in the Middle East. That led to an eight-day USO tour in Iraq and Kuwait, where he signed photos and sports memorabilia, and shared meals with soldiers. He was presented with the NFL's Salute to Service Award by USAA, a financial service for military families, in 2012.
Tillman has earned the Brian Piccolo Award three times. It's named in honor of Brian Piccolo, a Bears running back who died in 1970 at age 26 from embryonal cell carcinoma. The award recipient is chosen by Bears teammates. They vote for the player who exemplifies many of Piccolo's traits, such as courage, loyalty, and teamwork.