After 13 seasons, two Pro Bowls and one Walter Payton Man of the Year award, cornerback Charles Tillman has decided to retire.
Tillman announced the news on Twitter via YouTube on Monday, wrapping up a distinguished career where he played a big role on many great defenses. Drafted in the second round in 2003 by the Bears, Tillman developed into the leader of the secondary for the mid 2000’s Bears defense that dominated the NFC. He started at least 14 games every season from 2005-2012, culminating in a season where he earned a first-team All Pro nod.
Injuries marred Tillman’s final years in Chicago, but he wound up as a huge contributor during Carolina’s road to the Super Bowl, starting 12 games for the NFC’s top team. Tillman missed four games with a partially torn ACL before returning to play on the injury in Weeks 15-17 and fully tearing the ligament.
“I’ve had 13 amazing years on two great teams and I’m just thankful for the love and support that I got from my teammates, the fans and my coaches,” Tillman told ChicagoBears.com. “I’m thankful to everyone who has helped me get to where I am right now because I definitely didn’t do it by myself.”
We’ll remember Tillman as the quintessential zone cornerback under Lovie Smith in Chicago. He was physical, forced turnovers, and rarely gave up big plays. We’ll also remember him for his patented “Peanut Punch” that he used to strip opponents of the ball. He has forced 44 fumbles, second only to Robert Mathis since Tillman entered the league. But Mathis isn’t a fair comparison because he’s a pass rusher. They are supposed to force fumbles. Tillman is the only defensive back in the top 10 of forced fumbles since 2003, nearly doubling Charles Woodson, the next closest defensive back.
Tillman won the 2013 award as the NFL’s Man of the Year for his work impacting the lives of thousands of critically and chronically ill children and their families in the Chicago area Chicago through his Cornerstone Foundation. He was also a finalist for the award in 2011 and the winner of the NFL Salute to Service Award in 2012. The list of accomplishments by Tillman’s foundation is awe-inspiring and overshadows the great work he did on the field during his career.
Charles Tillman may never reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he is among some of the best players to ever play cornerback in the NFL.
So when former NFL executive and current NFL.com writer Gil Brandt released his top cornerbacks of all-time list and did not include Tillman, the former Bears standout had a simple message on Twitter:
Tillman may not exactly be arguing that he is one of the 31 best cornerbacks of all time, rather he is arguing he should be above some who made the list.
Many of Brandt’s selections make sense, yet he placed current players Josh Norman, Aqib Talib and Malcolm Butler(!) ahead of the man affectionately known as Peanut.
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In Tillman’s 13 NFL seasons he recorded 911 tackles, three sacks, a staggering 44 forced fumbles and 38 interceptions. While it will be difficult for him to get into the Hall, he has a far better overall resume than Norman, Talib and especially Butler. Norman and Talib are arguably more talented and could surpass Tillman if they continue on the path they are on, but to list Butler even ahead of those two, let alone Tillman, is pretty surprising.
Tillman was not the only one surprised he did not land on the list. Former Bears teammate Desmond Clark also weighed in:
Brandt’s list does not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it goes to show that Tillman continues to get overlooked for his play even after being out of the NFL.