LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Former cornerback Charles Tillman, accompanied by his wife and four kids, showed up at Halas Hall on Friday to sign a one-day contract and officially retire as a member of the Chicago Bears, the organization he called home for 12 of his 13 seasons in the NFL.
“I was kind of against [having] the whole press conference [thing],” Tillman said. “I told everybody I just literally wanted to sign the one-day contract, meet with George McCaskey and Cliff Stein and sign it and just be done. But I'm thankful that -- after seeking advisement -- everybody said you should do a press conference, so I'm glad. There was a tremendous outpouring of support when I made my announcement, and I have to say that I've had 13 amazing years of playing football, 12 of which that were in Chicago and one great year in Carolina. I'm thankful to the fans that have supported me on and off the field, my teammates and my coaches.”
Chicago’s second-round draft choice in 2003, Tillman is the Bears all-time leader in defensive touchdowns (nine), interception return touchdowns (eight) and interception return yards (675). Tillman’s 36 interceptions are third in team history.
The 6-foot-2 defensive back burst onto the scene when as a rookie he stole the ball away in the end zone from All-Pro wide receiver Randy Moss that clinched a late-season Bears’ victory over division rival Minnesota at Soldier Field.
“I think one of my best memories is the Minnesota Vikings game,” Tillman said. “That was kind of like the play that put me on the map, if you’d call it that.
"I think it just showed the world that I could play with anybody. I know when I came from Louisiana-Lafayette when I got drafted, there were a lot people who were like, 'Who the hell is Charles Tillman? What school is that?' And I had a chip on my shoulder because I was this young kid who no one knew about.”
Tillman played a pivotal role on three NFC North championship teams and helped key Chicago’s run to Super Bowl XLI.
“The 2006 season, I think that was a very special season,” Tillman said. “The coaches, the players, the building, everyone that worked in the building, from equipment to trainers to media to community relations to tickets to everybody. I think someone said it best: It was lightning in a bottle. We had everything from top to bottom. And more importantly, the culture of the team ... the players, we had this camaraderie with each other. There wasn’t a lot of talking. We joked all the time. All types of games, having fun. Yeah, very special season. Very similar to what we had in Charlotte this year in the 2015 season.”
The creator of the “Peanut Punch,” Tillman forced 42 fumbles for the Bears (and two more for the Panthers), including a career-high 10 in 2012.
“I think the move is fine, it’s cool,” Tillman said. “A lot of people ask me how I came up with it, how I developed it. And, I was a guy who — I’m not Brian Urlacher, I’m not Lance Briggs, I’m not Thomas Davis or Luke Kuechly — I don’t hit that hard. I don’t hit like those four guys. I like to think of myself as a little guy, so I’m just going to separate the man from the ball the best way I know how and that’s not with my shoulder pads, that’s with my fist. And, you know, I did it a few times, I did it a couple times in college, it kind of carried over into the league and 44 forced fumbles later, it was a patented move. I don’t know who coined the name Peanut Punch. I wish I had gotten into some of that stock so I could have reserved the right to use that for myself.
"But it worked out and I’m very blessed that people recognize that, and that I was able to leave my mark on the game of football. Because you see a lot of people doing it now.”