Matt Eberflus made it his mission to correct a longstanding issue within the Chicago Bears organization for the past several years. He wanted to bring the team’s alumni back into the fold. Let them be part of the organization and help out however they can—one of the first people he reached out to what Charles Tillman. The head coach asked if the legendary cornerback would come in to speak with the team. Unsurprisingly, Tillman agreed.
On Friday, May 6th, before the first rookie minicamp of the offseason, Peanut stood before a room of almost 70 players and told them everything they needed to hear. He didn’t promise everything would be okay. That isn’t how the NFL works. Instead, he gave it to them straight. Only those willing to put in the work will find success in this league, especially in a city like Chicago. Tillman did this by telling the story of his own eye-opening moment as a rookie via Larry Mayer of Chicagobears.com.
Tillman relayed a story from his rookie season in 2003 when he was asked by a coach during a meeting to diagram his responsibilities on a play. He aced the test, but when the coach asked Tillman a follow-up question about the assignments of other defensive players, he was stumped.
“I was like, ‘I don’t know. I’m not a safety. I’m not a D-end. I’m not a linebacker,'” Tillman told the rookies. “The coach said, ‘You’re in the league. You’re in the NFL. You need to know what everybody does.’
“So, that’s one piece of advice that I would give you all right now: Learn your playbook; know what everybody does.”
As the son of a military man, Tillman was no stranger to hard work.
He had no issues putting in the time required, and within a few years, he morphed into one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. By the time he was done, there was no debating that he was the most accomplished player the Bears had ever seen at that position in team history. Many feel he deserves strong consideration for the Hall of Fame. That is an argument for another time. Charles Tillman chose to leave the aspiring next generation with one last piece of advice.
“If you work hard for this team, I swear to you this city will love you,” he said. “This is a Bears town first. This city bleeds blue and orange for the Chicago Bears.”
He is correct. Chicago remains a Bears town for all the love the Bulls, White Sox, Cubs, and Blackhawks get. When this team wins, the buzz is indescribable. Players that excel and give it everything they have will carve out a legacy that fans will keep alive for generations. Tillman is a perfect example. He hasn’t played for them in almost a decade, but people still remember his career as if it were yesterday. Hopefully, some of the rookies will take his advice to heart.