- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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Charles Tillman on Saturday became the fifth Chicago Bear to be honored with the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award, which recognizes a player for community service off the field, as well as on-field excellence.
Payton’s children, Jarrett and Brittney Payton, will honor Tillman prior to Sunday’s kickoff of Super Bowl XLVII.
“I’m grateful to be the recipient of such a prestigious award,” Tillman said. “Walter Payton's legacy continues to be a beacon of service and giving, and I’m just trying to do my small part. I don’t think any of the finalists do what they do to get recognition. But we do it because we are passionate about helping others.”
Tillman had been a finalist for the award twice in three years, and was selected ahead of fellow finalists Jay Feely of the Arizona Cardinals and Thomas Davis of Carolina. Other Chicago Bears to win the Walter Payton Man of the Year award include Payton (1977), Dave Duerson (1987), Mike Singletary (1990, and Jim Flanigan (2000).
A two-time Pro Bowler, Tillman ranks third in franchise history with 36 interceptions, and leads the franchise in defensive return touchdowns, interception return touchdowns, and interception return yards.
Off the field, Tillman impacts millions in the Chicagoland area through his Cornerstone Foundation and its various programs. Charles’ Locker helps pediatric hospital patients, and annually reaches more than 370,000 children, while the Tiana Fund has distributed more than $1 million to 300 families identified by local organizations as at-risk or in-need.
Tillman and his wife, Jackie, also contribute outside of the cornerback’s own foundation. The Tillmans have been credited with helping to build a school in Cambodia, in addition to sponsoring children through the Urban Promise program in Camden, N.J., and they’ve also purchased and donated more than 700 tickets to Bears home games since 2008 through the Bears Home Team Hand-off program. Tillman is also involved in supporting the military, volunteering time with the USO of Illinois on Thanksgiving to serve meals to troops, in addition to providing soldiers with tickets to games at Soldier Field during the 2013 season.
Of the Walter Payton Award winners, 17 are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Each of the 32 nominees for the award received a $1,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to the charity of their choice. The three finalists received an additional $5,000 donation in their name. Tillman will also receive a $20,000 donation to his favorite charity for winning the award.
Tillman turns 33 later this month, and will be an unrestricted free agent on Mar. 11.