Chicago Bears’ cornerback Charles Tillman is the Bears' nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. The award, of course, is named after the legendary Bears' 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. Tillman was nominated last season and 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.
Tillman was named to his second-consecutive Pro Bowl this season and is the Bears’ first defensive back to receive back-to-back Pro Bowl nominations since safety Mark Carrier following the 1990 and 1991 seasons.
This season, Tillman paces the NFL with 10 forced fumbles and has three interception return touchdowns to go along with 89 tackles, 13 pass break ups, two fumble recoveries and one tackle for a loss.
Since being drafted by the Bears in 2003, Tillman is among the NFL’s top 10 in interceptions (33, eighth), interception return yards (606, seventh), interception return touchdowns (eight, tied for second), forced fumbles (39, first) and passes defensed (124, tied for sixth).
Since the inception of the Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation in 2005, their efforts have impacted more than one 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.
Additionally, Illinois' Governor Pat Quinn declared June 19, 2010 and July 24, 2011 Charles Tillman Family Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Days.
Congrats to Peanut and good luck! The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will be announced in New Orleans, the site of Super Bowl XLVII, during NFL Honors, a two-hour prime-time awards special to air nationally February 3 on NBC.
Learn more about Tillman’s story: