Doing it the right way

Rookie CB Charles Tillman has the job that he's always wanted. Now he's determined to make raise his already formidable level of play and make a lasting impact on the Bears secondary. But refreshingly, Tillman seems to be doing this for all of the right reasons: not for the money, not for the fame, but for self-respect.

Charles Tillman won the Rookie of the Week honor by an online fan poll for his performance against Denver. The cornerback recorded six tackles and one sack. He has three interceptions in the last five games.

Tillman was a four-year starter at CB at Louisiana-Lafayette, earning all-America honors as a senior. He moved to FS, where he again was a starter for the second half of his senior year.

At Louisiana-Lafayette, his career total was 284 tackles with two sacks, nine TFLs seven forced fumbles, and six fumble recoveries. He also had 12 INTs, 31 PDs and three blocked kicks.

"I've always set high goals for myself in high school, in college, and now at the professional level," Tillman said. "That's the way that my family has always handled things. My uncle always said that a goal without a plan is a waste of thought. You choose things to achieve, then you go after them."

Tillman's is the son of native Chicagoans. Donald, a career Army sergeant, and Arbria instilled the value of hard work and discipline early on.

"My parents values have helped me so much over the years," Tillman said. "The other factor that has been very positive was that we moved a lot as my father was transferred from post to post. I attended 11 different schools from kindergarten to 12th grade. I think that much of my ability to adjust to new situations both on and off the field came from that."

Now Tillman must adjust to having a higher profile in the world of Chicago sports. His NFL rookie collector's card was issued recently and he has appeared more frequently in media reports about the team. Does he see that as the first step to increased fame?

"No," Tillman said. "That was never my goal. I'm just ‘Peanut.' I don't expect any special treatment. There is so much more to the game than something like that. Don't get me wrong. It's a real thrill to have the card although it's sort of strange to see it and find my picture right there on the front. My family is real excited, but for me, the notoriety doesn't make much of a difference. I just see myself as an average guy who goes out there each day and does his best. If my skills are improving, then I'm a happy man."

Now that Tillman profile has been raised, does he find that he is getting more attention from Bears fans?

"Sure," he said. "It happens from time to time and I am always somewhat surprised. When I am walking around, in a mall or someplace like that, I do notice that people are beginning to recognize me. They wave or come up and say something nice. That's great but I never want to forget that I am no different than anybody else, I just happen to play football. You are good at what you do. I am good at what I do. It's all the same."

A quick look at Tillman's statistics for this season would indicate that he is being overly modest about his accomplishments to date. With a total of 58 tackles and 2 forced fumbles, he is one of the defensive leaders. Even Bears veterans are impressed by the rookie's ability.

"When I see Charles Tillman, I see an amazing player," said 1963 Bears C Mike Pyle. "I love to watch him flying around out there. He was penalized a lot earlier, in what I felt at the time were pretty questionable calls. That could have made him quite cautious and not nearly as effective. But instead of holding back, Charles has played all out. For that I credit his character and excellent coaching."

Defensive coordinator Greg Blache concurs.

"Tillman is developing well," Blache said. "He has outstanding speed and discipline. We've kept an eye on him from the start of the preseason. So far, we are very pleased with what he's accomplished."

Where does he go from here?

"I'm just going to go out and play my game every game," Tillman said. "If I get respect that way, so be it. I'm just going to be me and play the way I'm going to play. I ask questions all of the time. I want to learn something every day. The only dumb question is the one that you didn't ask. I'm just a rookie trying to fit in."

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