May 15, 2014 3:22 PM by PRESS RELEASE
Former Louisiana Ragin' Cajun Charles "Peanut" Tillman, who will visit his alma mater on Saturday as Spring 2014 Commencement speaker, is a two-time All-Pro in the National Football League.
Tillman's performance after the last whistle blows, though, is what makes him an all-star to hundreds of thousands of seriously ill children.
A four-year letterman at UL Lafayette, Tillman earned All American recognition in 2002. Since being drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2003, the defensive back is the NFL's only player with at least 30 interceptions and at least that many forced fumbles.
The stat, while impressive, is overshadowed by his work through the Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation. It provides opportunities and resources to pediatric patients, or their families. Since 2005, it's estimated that Tillman's charitable efforts have impacted the lives of over a million Chicago-area children and raised more than $1 million.
Tillman, a 33-year-old Chicago native, was honored as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in February at Radio City Music Hall in New York. The award, which is named after the late Bears Hall of Fame running back, is the only one given by the league in recognition of a player's on-field achievements and dedication to helping others.
Tillman's devotion to assisting children began with providing educational opportunities and resources for them through the Cornerstone Foundation. Personal experience, however, changed the foundation's mission. In 2008, one of Tillman's four children, Tiana, was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. She was three months old, and received a life-saving heart transplant several months afterward.
"I believe we all have a responsibility to lend a helping hand in the service of others in times of need," Tillman said during his acceptance speech for the Walter Payton Award. "Because of a donor, my daughter Tiana is alive and healthy and she's thriving."
Tillman's generosity extends beyond sick children and their families. He supported U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East during an eight-day USO tour in Iraq and Kuwait. He signed photos and sports memorabilia, and shared meals with soldiers. Tillman also has volunteered with the USO of Illinois to serve Thanksgiving meals to local servicemen.
In 2012, he received the NFL's Salute to Service Award by USAA, a financial service for military families.
Tillman and his wife Jackie also have assisted with the construction of a school in Cambodia.
Tillman has been voted by his teammates to receive the Brian Piccolo Award three times. It's named in honor of Brian Piccolo, a Bears running back who died in 1970 at age 26 from embryonal cell carcinoma. The award honors the player who exemplifies many of Piccolo's traits, such as courage, loyalty and teamwork.