We had so much fun doing our Countdown to Kickoff series last season that we decided to do it again. In case you’re new to the series, we’ll do a roster preview as we count down the days until the Chicago Bears September 7th season opener against the Buffalo Bills.
In 2003, the Chicago Bears selected cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman in the 2nd round of the NFL draft and little did they know, he would become a Bears legend. #33 indicates only 33 days until the Bears season opener.
Tillman became an instant starter in his first season with the Bears and recorded 83 tackles and 4 interceptions. However, his sophomore season was cut short due to an injury. There were many moments in his early seasons where the selection of Tillman was questioned by many. That being said, he showed flashes early on. One of the most memorable Peanut Tillman plays was in a game against the Vikings in his rookie season, where he took the ball away from Randy Moss in the end zone for a game winning interception. In 2005 and 2006, Tillman silenced his critics becoming a cornerstone of one of the league’s top defenses in that 2 year span.
Peanut did not peak in 2006, he got even better, solidifying his place as the best cornerback in Chicago Bear history. In 2012, many experts made the case that Tillman should have been considered for defensive player of the year, finishing with 10 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions – all returned for a touchdown, and 98 total tackles. With all due respect to Donnell Woolford, Allen Ellis, Bennie McRae and Leslie Frazier, there is no question in my mind that Tillman is the best at his position in franchise history. Longevity also supports that statement.
His 36 interceptions rank third in franchise history and he owns club records for interception return yards (675), interception return touchdowns (8) and defensive return touchdowns (9). However, his most compelling stat is his ability to strip a ball carrier, as evidence of his 42 career forced fumbles – the highest total from a player since he entered the league in 2003.
Looking ahead to the 2014 season, cornerback seems to be the deepest on the defensive side of the ball. Tim Jennings, Kyle Fuller and Kelvin Hayden are all locks to be on the roster along with Tillman. There will be a competition between Sherrick McMannis, Isiah Frey, CJ Wilson, Al Louis-Jean and Demontre Hurst for the other 2-3 roster spots at corner.
On a final note, I think I speak for all Bear fans when I say THANK YOU to Peanut for being a turnover machine throughout the years, as well as always playing hard and physical.
Jersey #33 will always be linked to Tillman in Chicago, but here’s some other recent notable 33’s for the Bears: Larry Whigham (2001-02), Tyrone Hughes (1997), Merril Hoge (1994), Darren Lewis (1991-92), Calvin Thomas (1982-87)
Be on the lookout for our Countdown to Kickoff series as we continue to work our way to the season opener on September 7th. We’re 33 days from kickoff. Are you ready???