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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

‘Peanut’: Charles Tillman Turns the Corner

By Eric Treuil
Jan. 30, 2011


I was serving as the team chaplain for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette football team when student athlete Charles “Peanut” Tillman first came in contact with our Chi Alpha Campus Ministry. In addition to the weekly chapel service on game days that he attended, Peanut backed into a weekly Bible study that I lead.

I was meeting with two UL football players, Jonathan Raush and Ryan Cade, in the study room on the dorm floor where most of the players lived. Peanut was one of the few players to use the study room, and he happened to be there when we were having a Bible study.

We would invite Peanut to join us, but he insisted that he had to study. However, during the course of the study he would raise his head and say, “Is that in the Bible?” After doing this for about three weeks, he eventually joined the weekly study. Shortly after, he made a decision to follow Christ and was baptized in the university swimming pool.

Tillman was the 35th pick in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft. He was born in Chicago, so being drafted by the Chicago Bears was like coming home. He has been an impact player for the Bears at right cornerback ever since.

Though born in Chicago, Tillman spent the majority of his youth traveling around the world, as his father was a sergeant in the United States Army. It was at birth that he received the nickname “Peanut” — his aunt said his body resembled the shape of a peanut. He attended 11 different schools during his youth, ultimately graduating from Copperas Cove High School in Texas.

His desire to play football began at the age of 7 when he saw a game on television and said, “That looks fun!” Coming out of high school he was highly sought after by many universities. His coach was a friend of the assistant head coach at UL, home of the Ragin’ Cajuns. Tillman signed with the Cajuns and was a four-year starter at right corner. Today, Tillman says he gets paid very well to play a game that is still fun.

 “Playing for the Chicago Bears is like a dream come true — I had dreamed of playing professional football as a kid!” he recalls. “One of my greatest highlights so far was our appearance in Superbowl XLI in 2007. It was an unbelievable experience — especially on media day. When I came out, there was a stage and a podium with my name on it next to Brian Urlacher! Urlacher is Mr. Everything, and I had a podium next to him!”

Tillman and his wife, Jackie, welcomed their second child, Tiana, into the world in February 2008. However, on May 20 of that year, Peanut was pulled aside from practice by head coach Lovie Smith and told to go to the hospital. His daughter was very sick.

Upon arrival, a doctor told Tillman that it appeared Tiana was suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy, which causes the heart to weaken and enlarge, disabling the heart’s pumping system. In order for her to survive, she would need a heart transplant.

“It was a very painful time that truly tested our faith and caused us as a family to pull together and trust God,” Tillman says.

In July a heart became available, and the operation was successful. Peanut recalls it as a joyful yet painful moment when he heard there was a heart available — joy that Tiana was going to live, pain because that meant another family had just lost a child.

As a result of this experience, he says it has caused them to enjoy every moment and not sweat the small stuff. In addition, the Tillmans changed their Cornerstone Foundation from an education-based foundation to one that would help families with sick children.

“One of my greatest joys is having the ability to give to others in need,” says Peanut.

Charles and Jackie Tillman reside in the Chicago area with their three children, Talya, Tiana and Tysen.

ERIC TREUIL is the South Central Area director for Chi Alpha and the Louisiana District Chi Alpha representative. Visit for information on the AG ministry to colleges and universities.

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