Bearing Down With ... Charles Tillman

FootballSportsChicago BearsCharles TillmanGeorge HalasSoldier FieldAlshon Jeffery

Charles Tillman came to the Bears in the 2003 draft as a relative unknown. Nine years later he is a Pro Bowl cornerback, special teams ace, fan favorite and fumble-forcing master. RedEye spoke with him about his first opening day, his 10th opening day and everything in between.

Charles Tillman: I didn't have any idea what team was going to draft me, or even if I was going to get drafted. But the Bears picked me up. I knew about the '85 Bears a little bit, but as far as the history, the titles, George Halas, things like that, I didn't know anything about it.

[Vice president of communications] Scott Hagel made all the rookies take a Bears history class—you know, "What does the GSH stand for on the jersey?" "George Halas played baseball. He played football. He got drafted into the war." Just gave us a little bit of history on the team and the organization.

Do you remember your first opening day? I was talking to Alshon Jeffery about prepping for his first opening day …

I don't. It might have been an away game? Oh, San Francisco. We played San Francisco, now that I think about it. I think we ended up losing. T.O. [Terrell Owens] beat me on a third down. It wasn't one of my best games as a rookie [laughs], but I didn't start so I didn't really get in that much.

You forced a fumble.

I did?

I didn't remember that. I just looked it up.

I don't even remember the score. Obviously I don't even remember my own stats. I just remember T.O. beat me on a third down, something like that. That's the only thing I remember. The second game, [editor's note: it actually was the third game] we played Green Bay. It was the opening of the new Soldier Field. First time we'd been there, seeing the stadium, the locker room. It was packed. It was Green Bay. That was when I realized, "Wow, the oldest rivalry in football." That was when it sunk in.

What sort of research have you done on the Bears since that point?

[Looks at Brandon Marshall, who is posing on the grass for a photographer, one knee on the ground and a football under his arm.] What are you doing? Really? Are you in high school, taking photos?

He's very focused.

I know.

So did you study the Bears?

No, nothing like that. Just over the years I would learn new things here and there.

Do you know how your career numbers stack up franchise-wise?

I don't. I think they're up there. I think my name will just get tossed in the hat with a bunch of other great players who have come here over the years.

You need nine interceptions to pass Gary Fencik for all time.

That'd be sweet.

What's the difference going into your 10th opening day as opposed to your first?

Nothing. Still get butterflies. Still excited. Still nervous. You know, I'm happy. It's a good day. Excitement. Trying to focus, lock in, things like that. It never changes for me.

So after 10 years, what is it that is special about being a Chicago Bear?

Just the history, the legacy, what this franchise and organization is and what they stand for. They stand for good quality guys. They don't care about how great a player you are. They want to know how good of a person you are. They take that all into account when they draft you.

Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. Say hey @readjack.


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