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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Charles Tillman motivates with inspiring NFL stories

Lucas Didier
Former Bears cornerback Charles Tillman speaks onstage Tuesday at the Carl Sandburg Auditorium. Tillman spoke to NIU students about being an underdog and his journey to the NFL. (Lucas Didier | Northern Star)

NIU students and citizens of the DeKalb area were greeted with a special visit from former Chicago Bears’ cornerback Charles Tillman.

Tillman spoke at NIU’s Carl Sandburg auditorium Tuesday. The former Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award winner used his NFL story as an example for students pursuing their goals in life.

Tillman touched on the importance of things such as hard work, mindset and maturity at the event titled, “Unleash Your Potential: Lessons from On and Off the Gridiron.”

Tillman told stories of being an underdog, climbing his way to NFL prominence and hitting the “reset button” in a competitive context. These stories were particularly aimed toward the many student athletes in the room.

When asked to sum up his message in a few words, Tillman highlighted mindset and building a strong community.

“Champions think differently than everyone else,” Tillman said. “That was my entire thought process the entire time. I thought differently. I am different. I know I’m different. Surround yourself with people like you.”

The two-time Pro Bowler has a simple reason for why he spends time in retirement speaking at events like these.

“Helping people,” Tillman said. “I feel like it would be selfish of me to leave what I’ve acquired over my short time on this earth if I kept it to myself. I’ve had a lot of people help me along the way, and I feel like I have something to contribute to student athletes because I’ve sat in that seat.”

Tillman concluded the event with a Q&A. Questions ranged from rookie hazing to handling life after football. While his biggest problems were once being pushed around in a shopping cart by his teammates, Tillman now finds himself filling the hole left from retirement.

Tillman stayed after the event to address the fans. He shared laughs and advice with a line full of fans as he met, took pictures and signed autographs until the room was clear.

Tillman said he would like to keep coming to speak to NIU students and anyone else who he can help.

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