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May 20, 2014 9:53 PM by katc

Words of Encouragement to the 2014 UL Grads from Charles "Peanut" Tillman

Charles "Peanut" Tillman, former UL football player and cornerback for the Chicago Bears, had some words of inspiration for the more than 1,600 new graduates of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Saturday.

Tillman was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Spring Commencement on May 17. He is a 2002 graduate of UL Lafayette who was a four-year letterman and All-American.

In his speech, Tillman encouraged the UL Lafayette graduating seniors to continue learning throughout life, and to have a positive impact on other people.

Excerpts from a transcript of his speech are below:

There are two types of ways we can communicate. One is body language. Body language, never whispers; it always screams. And, the second one is words. Words are important because . . . they lift us up, they tear us down.

To sum up, just how important words are: words create worlds. What a blessing it would be today if, in some small way, my words could help you create a new world. Now words can't create themselves by themselves - you have to act on your words.

Back in 2003, I took a trip to Champaign, (Ill.), They made our rookies go down to Champaign, and, you know, I'm thinking, "Why am I here? This is boring. I don't want to do this." And it was probably one of the best life lessons I've ever learned. We were given the task to memorize a mantra. I've lived my life by this mantra.

Basically it goes like this: "Learning is the beginning of health, wealth, future, and fortune. You can multiply your life by two, by three, by five, by 10, if you don't neglect to learn." I take great pride in knowing that I try to learn something every year that I'm in the NFL. And what I take from that phrase or that quote - I don't care how old you are, you can always learn something new. I'm 33 years old, and I'm in graduate school right now. Hopefully, next year I'll be doing what you guys are doing and graduating.

I'm always trying to learn something new and I inspire you guys to do the same.

The message I want to leave you guys with today is about making your mark. Everyone can interpret that in a new way, in a different way. In my opinion, that means to be bold, to stand out, to not be afraid, and to do something and take a chance and risk something.

I believe we all have something that we've learned to make a mark.

The first, I think you all have learned at a young age: competition. I think competition brings out the best in everybody. I think you find out who you are and what you're made out of when you compete.

The second one is teamwork. You learn about being selfless, you learn about giving it up, putting it on the line for somebody else. You learn about what it takes, when you get knocked down, to pick yourself back up.

And third, as an athlete, we learn: what's next? After a game, good or bad, win or lose, you go back to that locker room and you always wonder what's next. You guys, once you get your degrees, your diplomas, you're going to walk out those doors and step into the real world, and you're going to wonder: what's next? After that, the mental toughness comes into play.

I call it the strangest secret. To me, the strangest secret is that we become what we think about.

What does that actually mean? Take corn and nightshade, which has a deadly poison. Dig two holes in farm land, one for corn and one for nightshade. Cover it up, put water on it, give it sunlight. Invariably, the same thing will happen. The land will return what is planted. Good or bad.

Your mind works the same exact way. Good thoughts, bad thoughts, your mind will always return what you plant.

What I take from that side is a PGOW - a PGOW is what I call a Powerful Group of Words. It's my own little acronym. I've got all these crazy acronyms that I do, right? So, a PGOW. A powerful group of words.

For me to get into a zone when I'm playing in front of 100,000, 60,000, Monday Night Football, whatever it is - my PGOW is the SCORE. . .

S. Self-discipline. This is something that you have to do - habits, rituals, you have to pay the price.

C. Concentration. This is intense focus. Keeping your eye on the prize, keeping your eye on the target. You can't hit your target if you take your eye off it.

O. Optimism. No negative self-talk. No matter what happens, you always have to be optimistic and positive about whatever's going on.

R. Relaxation. You can't get in the zone if you're tight.

E. Enjoyment. That's really having fun.

Some people believe you have to be famous, wealthy, or influential to be memorable. The people who inspire me the most are the ones that follow their passions in life and strive to help others. I hope I can be an inspiration to others by walking my talk.

Lastly, anybody seen the movie "The Gladiator?" Great movie, right? In the movie "The Gladiator," Maximus, he says, "At my signal, unleash hell." Well, I think we already have enough hell on earth, right? So, as a proud alumnus, at my signal, I'll say, "Unleash yourselves."

For the full speech from the 2014 Spring Commencement, click here.

YOUTUBE VIDEO COURTESY OF UL LAFAYETTE

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