Over the course of his professional life, former NFL star Charles Tillman has been able to pursue two of the most coveted dream jobs.
Tillman is a former pro cornerback who spent most of his career in the Windy City and spent his last year in the NFL on the 2015 Carolina Panthers team that went to the Super Bowl. He retired from the NFL after 13 seasons, and then started working his way up the law enforcement chain and became an FBI agent shortly after.
In the NFL, he has a portfolio as big as the ones that are now landing on his desks. He is one of the most physical cornerbacks to ever play the game, and he had a knack for forcing fumbles at the same rate as some of the greatest defensive linemen in history.
Tillman is a two-times Pro-Bowler, a first-team all-pro, and one of the best Chicago Bears of all time. He is top-10 all-time for most career forced fumbles in NFL history with 44, a stat that puts him alongside Hall of Famers Jason Taylor, Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas and Ricky Jackson, as well as future Hall of Famers Julius Peppers and Terrell Suggs.
The only other defensive back to even rank in the top 20 in NFL history for career forced fumbles is Brian Dawkins with 37. For his career, Tillman had 38 interceptions, 9 total touchdowns, and 930 combined tackles. The term “nose for the ball” was invented to describe elite defensive stalwarts like Peanut Tillman.
He was a menace on the field and his stats will back that up as well, despite lining up every Sunday against some of the most prolific receivers in NFL history including Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson, who he met twice a season while playing in the NFC North.
Tillman was very skilled, and he developed a technique of punching the ball out of the ball carrier’s arms to cause forced fumbles, which is now used by players all around the world on every level.
This became widely known as the “peanut punch” iconized by Tillman. Of course, Tillman’s nickname was “Peanut,” which derived from his aunt calling him peanut when he was younger due to the shape of his head.
The peanut punch is a technique used by football players everywhere now and it’s the main reason why Tillman was able to get all of those forced fumbles in his career. But to be strong enough to punch the ball out of the grip of some of the strongest athletes in the world says a lot about him and the dedication he put into the game.
Tillman was always a helper and a public servant, which is why many can understand why he became an FBI agent. He’s helped out with countless charities, including his own foundation to help with children and families in need. This was recognized by him receiving the NFL’s 2013 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his philanthropic efforts.
There hasn’t been much spoken about Tillman and his joining of the FBI, and that’s for many reasons. FBI agents aren’t usually former celebrity sports stars partaking in a second career. An easily recognizable FBI agent can be problematic, depending on the mission.
Former United States marshal Kim Widup told Clay there wouldn’t be an announcement from the FBI that Tillman has become an agent in order to “get him to fade to anonymity as much as they can.”
They understandably do not want to put him or his family at any additional risk. But whether on the field, or off the field ‘Peanut’ Tillman is an inspiration, and an icon for his service as a player and a federal agent.
His story is one that definitely reflects well on the NFL and is an example of the many respected and lauded roles that athletes serve beyond entertaining people in a stadium.