Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was honored for his on-the-field excellence in 2011 and 2012 when he was voted to the Pro Bowl. Now he's been recognized for his many off-the-field contributions.
Tillman, who can become an unrestricted free agent on March 11 and whose future with the Bears is uncertain, on Saturday accepted the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.
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Tillman became emotional after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell presented the award.
"This is No. 1," he said. "I couldn't even talk. I can talk about going to Super Bowls, and creating turnovers and forcing fumbles, getting picks, getting touchdowns. But I've never been so nervous in my life to get onstage and talk in front of so many people with so much passion about what I do, and (what) my daughter and my family (do).
"I'm grateful to be the recipient of such a prestigious award. Walter Payton's legacy continues to be a beacon of service and giving, and I'm just trying to do my small part. I don't think any of the finalists do what they do to get recognition, but we do it because we are passionate about helping others."
The Payton award recognizes a player's off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence and has been awarded since 1970. Tillman is the fifth Bear to be honored with the award, joining Payton (1977), Dave Duerson (1987), Mike Singletary (1990) and Jim Flanigan (2000).
Jarrett and Brittney, Payton's children, will honor Tillman on the field today at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. before the kickoff of Super Bowl XLVIII.
Tillman, whose 42 forced fumbles are the second most in the NFL since 2003, when he was drafted by the Bears in the second round, was one of three finalists for the Payton award in 2012.
The Tiana Fund, named after his daughter, who required a heart transplant as an infant in 2008, has distributed more than $1 million to 300 families who have been identified by local organizations as at risk or in need.
He continues to have an impact on millions of people in the Chicago area through his Cornerstone Foundation and its many programs. Charles' Locker provides pediatric hospital patients with access to tablets, laptops, gaming systems and other kinds of entertainment to help pass the time during their hospital stays and annually reaches more than 370,000 children.
The Tillmans have helped build a school in Cambodia. Tillman, whose father, Donald Tillman, was an Army sergeant, is also an avid supporter of the military. He has participated in a USO tour to Iraq, volunteered with the USO of Illinois on Thanksgiving to serve meals to local troops and provided soldiers with tickets to games at Soldier Field during the 2013 season.