Chicago Bears’ cornerback Charles Tillman—along with the Ravens’ Matt Birk and Chargers’ Philip Rivers—is a finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. The award, of course, is named after the Bears’ legendary running back, who tragically passed away from advanced bile duct cancer in 1999.
The award strives to recognize an NFL player’s off-the-field community service, as well as on-the-field excellence. The winner receives the coveted gladiator statue and a $20,000 donation, in the winner’s name, to the charity of their choice.
Players nominate one man from each of the NFL’s 32 teams for the award. Last season, Chicago Bears’ players nominated defensive end Israel Idonije, who ultimately became a finalist but did not win the prestigious award.
The last Bears’ player to win was defensive lineman Jim Flanigan in 2000. Prior to Flanigan, linebacker Mike Singletary (1990), safety Dave Duerson (1987), and running back Walter Payton (1977) accepted the award as members of the Bears’ organization.
Since being drafted by the Bears in 2003, Charles Tillman has an NFL-high 28 forced fumbles among defensive backs, is among the NFL’s top ten in interceptions and interception return yards, and was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2011, a year in which he established a Bears franchise record for career interception return touchdowns.
Since the inception of the Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation in 2005, his efforts have impacted more than 1 million Chicago area children and raised more than $1.2 million. In 2008, Tillman’s 3-month old daughter was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. She received a heart transplant and is now healthy and active.
Consequently, the Cornerstone Foundation changed their mission to focus on improving the lives of critically and chronically ill children by providing support and life changing experiences. Tillman appeared before Congress to lobby for FDA approval of the Berlin Heart, a device which helped save his daughter’s life, which has since been approved.
In addition, Tillman and his wife, Jackie, contribute their time and resources organizations across the country that support the military, education, organ donation and underprivileged children. Tillman participated in a USO Tour in 2010 and hosts youth football camps and visits hospitals on military bases in Illinois, Texas and California.
Illinois Governor Quinn declared June 19, 2010 and July 24, 2011 “Charles Tillman Family Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Day.” In 2011, Bleacher Report named him one of the Most Charitable Players in the NFL and selected him for their Top 5 Good Guys list.
Congrats to Peanut and good luck! The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will be announced in Indianapolis, the site of Super Bowl XLVI, during NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on February 4 from 9-11 p.m. EST on NBC.
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