Tillman recently did an interview with me to talk about his collaboration with Allstate Insurance Company's "Give It Up For Good" campaign, put together to bring notoriety to the individuals who are dedicated to bettering their communities and the lives of others. In addition to talking about that, he made his expectations for the 2013 Bears clear.
"My expectations are to win a Super Bowl. I'm very much inspired by the Chicago Blackhawks, looking at the parade on television. Seeing downtown Chicago swamped by two million fans, I got goosebumps watching it. I want that same feeling that those guys had," Tillman said.
"When you're in training camp, when it's hot, you're tired. The image that will be in the back of my mind is looking at the Chicago Blackhawks and two million fans celebrating with the Stanley Cup trophy."
Although they have a veteran roster, the Chicago Bears are going through a transition period with almost an entirely new coaching staff, led by new head coach Marc Trestman.
Tillman admitted the transition was difficult for him at first because of the nine years he spent doing things the same way under former coach Lovie Smith, but he said he's adjusted and accepted the change.
"I think coach Trestman coming in and his new system, his new way of thinking, changing it up a bit is a good thing for us."
While new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is expected to try to maintain what the defense has been successful with in the past, the big changes are expected to be on the offensive side of the ball. Tillman noted some of those changes.
"For the most part the tempo of our offense has been good," Tillman said. "It's been fast, it's been upbeat and I think that's the one thing a lot of people are going to notice about the new offense we have."
The Bears don't have a lot of time to adjust to the changes. Tillman and several other starters—including quarterback Jay Cutler—are in the last years of their contracts. Tillman noted the added sense of urgency at Halas Hall.
"We just really got to focus on the task at hand. I definitely think there's a sense of urgency to win. By us winning 10 games last year, Coach Trestman has inherited a fairly good team," Tillman said.
"We're not in the rebuilding phase. We're in the 'we need to win right now' phase. I think he knows that, I think Chicago knows that, we know that as players. Our foundation has been set for us by a pretty good coach. Coach Trestman just has to lead us to victory, and I think he can do it."
If they're going to climb to the top of the NFL mountain, they're going to have to top who former Bears' Hall of Fame player and Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Ditka said is the best quarterback in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers. Tillman agreed with his assessment.
"I'd have to agree with him. I like his style, his presence in the pocket, his leadership, his focus. His ability to make other average players great. He makes other players really good. It's a skill, it's a quality that he has. Great player. Great guy too."
However, Tillman is a fan of the guy the Bears have under center too, calling Cutler a "top five" quarterback and saying he has the potential to "take that next step."
Tillman is entering his 11th NFL season, all with the Bears. At 32 years old, it doesn't seem like he has a lot of time left, but he's not worried about the future.
"I'm just having fun. I'm just focused on the now. What's going on in my life right now. Retirement? Yeah, I'm sure I'll retire one day, but I'm not really worried about. I'm just focused on today, the now, being in the moment."
Before worrying about playing well on the football field, Tillman is concentrated on doing good in the community.
Tillman said he was approached for the "Give It Up For Good" campaign by Allstate, and he liked the message they are trying to relay.
"They were looking for a good guy, 'You're in good hands', me forcing fumbles, it just seemed like a good fit. I believed in what they were doing and what they stood for," Tillman said.
"At any given moment you can just turn on the news, there's always something negative, especially in Chicago, as far as the South Side, North Side. Someone getting shot or something. They just want to focus on the good that people are doing, but you don't really hear about that good. The negative news just surpasses the positive news."
After Tillman's daughter, Tiana, was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy in May of 2008, he created the Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation. Tiana received a heart transplant in July of 2008, and Tillman's charitable efforts have helped more than one million Chicago-area children.
One of the programs run by the Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation include a Tender Heart Lunch, which provided more than 150 mothers with an outlet and a get-together.
They also provide electrical devices such as iPads, laptops and Nooks to families while they're staying in the hospital.
Tillman's story—and the stories of many others—can be seen at Allstate.com/GiveItUpForGood, and more information about the Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation can be found at www.charlestillman.org.
All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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