- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Hours after winning the 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, Chicago Bears free-agent cornerback Charles Tillman took to Twitter on Sunday morning to inform his 107,000 followers that he had a pair of tickets to give away for Super Bowl XLVIII later that day.
This is crazy but I have 2 tickets to the Super Bowl today... Does anyone know a really deserving military family that could attend?
— Charles Tillman (@peanuttillman) February 2, 2014
Later that morning, Tillman announced that the Doltz family would receive the coveted Super Bowl tickets. Neeraj Singh, a friend of Sgt. Ryan Doltz’s family, told Tillman about the tragic story of the soldier who was killed while on duty in Iraq a decade ago at the age of 26.
Tillman, the son of an Army sergeant, had to attend 11 schools from kindergarten to 12th grade.
Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune confirmed that New Jersey paramedic Greg Doltz, Ryan's brother, attended the game with his wife, Tiffany, with Singh serving as the middle man in the ticket exchange.
"Even up to the minute before I had the tickets in my hand, I thought the whole thing was a hoax," Doltz told the Tribune. "Even on the drive down, I told my wife, 'If this turns out not to be real, let's just go have fun at our friends' house. It'll still be worth the trip. Who cares?'
"It was so spur-of-the-moment. And that was Ryan's thing. He would drop everything he was doing to hang out with his friends. He would be in New Jersey, and his friend in Virginia would call to see what he was doing. And the next thing you knew, he would be getting in his car to drive to Virginia."
These sorts of gestures have become commonplace for Tillman, who became the fifth Bears player to win the coveted Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. Tillman was also a finalist for the honor in 2011.
Through his Cornerstone Foundation and its many programs, Tillman and his wife, Jackie, have provided pediatric hospital patients with access to tablets, laptops, gaming systems and other kinds of entertainment to help pass the time during their hospital stays. Tillman's efforts have also generated more than $1 million in aid to 300 families who have been identified by local organizations as at risk or in need.
Tillman's support of the military over the years includes: traveling to Iraq as part of a USO tour, serving meals to local troops on Thanksgiving in conjunction with the USO of Illinois, and providing soldiers with tickets to games at Soldier Field during the 2013 season.
He was the recipient of the 2012 Salute to Service Award. The award was created to acknowledge exceptional efforts by members of the NFL community to honor and support U.S. service members and veterans.