Charles Tillman officially retires as a Chicago Bear
Charles "Peanut" Tillman, probably the greatest cornerback in Bears history, says it took a group effort to elevate him to that level.
"At the time, when my mom and dad was whuppin' me, I definitely didn't think I deserved them," said Tillman, who announced his retirement on Monday said. He returned to Halas Hall on Friday to sign a one-day contract so he could officially retire as a Bear.
"But looking back on it, I deserved every one, and it taught me respect, and it taught me a lot about myself. I'm so thankful for my mom and my dad for doing a good job raising me and teaching me a good work ethic."
That work ethic was part of what helped Tillman play 13 seasons in the NFL; the first 12 with the Bears and last year with the Carolina Panthers.
Tillman set Bears records with 9 defensive touchdowns, 8 interception return TDs and 675 interception-return yards. His 36 interceptions are the most by a cornerback in Bears history and third most overall behind safeties Gary Fencik (38) and Richie Petitbon (37).
Tillman was even more renowned for his unique ability to force fumbles, which he did 42 times, often by punching the ball from the grasp of receivers and running backs. Tillman forced 10 fumbles in 2012 alone, tying the NFL single-season record, and he was voted to his second straight Pro Bowl that season.
The 6-foot-2, 198-pound Tillman was a second-round draft pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette in 2003 and moved into the starting lineup in the fourth game of his rookie season. He considers himself fortunate to have come to a Bears team surrounded by other elite defensive players like linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.
But Tillman also credits former Bears defensive back Dwayne Joseph with helping his early development. Joseph was the Bears' director of player development when Tillman joined the franchise.
"I kind of treated football as if it was like high school or college," Tillman said. "It was just a sport. But (Joseph) taught me since Day One: 'You're the president of Charles Tillman, Inc. You're the CEO of you, and you need to conduct yourself in the manner of a CEO. (Not with) pants hanging down by your ankles. Perception is reality. People treat you how they perceive you.' I took that to heart and really tried to have a strong brand."
That brand extended to Tillman's extensive off-the-field charitable work through his Cornerstone Foundation, for which he was recognized as the NFL's 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. Tillman began the foundation in 2005 to help children excel in school.
Three years later, after his baby daughter Tiana was diagnosed with a heart ailment and required a heart transplant, the focus of the foundation was changed to aid seriously ill children.
His own injuries -- season-ending torn triceps injuries in each of his last two Bears season and a torn right ACL in 2015 -- forced the 35-year-old Tillman to miss 26 games over his final three seasons. That made his recent retirement decision easier. He had missed just six starts in the previous eight seasons.
"I just woke up one day and I was like, 'I think I'm done,' " he said. "I'm tired. I don't have to get ready for a training camp, so I think I'm good. I'm going to retire. It was that easy."
And Tillman says it will be easy to enjoy retirement surrounded by his wife Jackie and their four children.
"I drive all my kids around, so I call myself the 'Duber guy, (daddy Uber)," he said. "Really, I'll just be a family guy."
Tillman has also been hired by Fox Sports to be a part of their Sunday morning "Fox NFL Kickoff" show. The network officially announced the move Thursday. The pregame show airs at 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings during the NFL season.
• The Bears terminated the contract of vested veteran defensive back Omar Bolden on Friday.
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