(CBS) Back in February, veteran cornerback Charles Tillman said his hunger for a championship fueled his desire to continue his NFL career. Knee and triceps injuries sidelined Tillman for all but 10 games over the past few seasons, yet he'll soldier on in Carolina. After 12 seasons with the Bears, Tillman has agreed to a one-year deal with the Panthers, reuniting him with Ron Rivera, Tillman's defensive coordinator from 2004 to 2006 in Chicago.
Tillman may very well be the best cornerback in Bears' history. His numbers certainly suggest as much. A second-round pick from Louisiana-Lafayette in the 2003 draft, Tillman ranks first in team history in forced fumbles (42), first in interceptions returned for a touchdown (eight) and third in interceptions (36). His "Peanut Punch" changed games. It also changed the way defensive backs approach ball-carriers and made ball security top of mind for opponents catching the ball in front of Tillman.
Tillman was a two-time Pro Bowl player on the field, and he was also an ambassador off the field. Tillman's Cornerstone Foundation has provided charitable efforts to more than one million Chicago-area children since 2005. He also received the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2013.
Bears chairman George McCaskey called Tillman "one of the best to ever wear blue and orange."
"Charles' 'Peanut Punch' is now a part of Bears lore," McCaskey told the team's official website. "We witnessed what I believe is the best takeaway artist of his era. But as impressive as his on-field accomplishments are, his contributions off the field are unmatched. Through his Cornerstone Foundation, Charles and his family have made an impact on the lives of many. He was duly honored as the 2013 Walter Payton Man of the Year and the 2012 NFL Salute to Service winner for his dedication.
"We are deeply appreciative of how he has represented our team."
While it will be bittersweet for Bears fans to see Tillman in another jersey, he represented the Chicago Bears as well as any player in recent history and should be remembered as such.
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