Charles Tillman was recognized for his off-field philanthropic accomplishments on Saturday, winning the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
The award has been given since 1970, but was named after the Bears’ late great running back in 1999. Payton himself won the award in 1977.
Tillman teared up on stage after receiving the award. “This is No. 1,” he said. “I couldn’t even talk. I can talk about going to Super Bowls, and creating turnovers and forcing fumbles, getting picks, getting touchdowns. But I’ve never been so nervous in my life to get on stage and talk in front of so many people with so much passion about what I do and my daughter and my family.”
Tillman is the fifth Bear to win, joining Jim Flanigan (2000), Mike Singletary (1990), Dave Duerson (1987), and Payton.
Tillman created the Cornerstone Foundation in 2005. The original focus was school-related, but in 2008 his daughter Tiana was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy and received a heart transplant. Since then, the foundation’s focus has been on improving the lives of critically and chronically ill children.
A fund in Tiana’s name was established and has raised more than $1 million for more than 300 families.
Having been an Army brat, Tillman has been involved in supporting the military. He and his wife recently helped build a school in Cambodia.
For winning the award, the NFL will donate $25,000 to his foundation, on top of the $1,000 received for being the Bears’ nominee.