Bears legend Peanut Tillman shares message for rookie class

Peanut Tillman shares special message for Bears rookies originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

A familiar face greeted the Bears as they began rookie minicamp on Friday. For the second year in a row, Matt Eberflus invited Charles “Peanut” Tillman to speak in front of the team.

“We all know the career he had and he can implement some wisdom onto those guys,” Eberflus said. “Really excited to have him in the building. Always great to see him, so that was cool.”

Tillman was everything Eberflus would want in a cornerback. A fierce competitor who wasn’t afraid to get physical in the run game. A takeaway machine with an incredible 44 forced fumbles, 38 INT and 11 fumble recoveries. Of course, his Peanut Punch changed the way defenders attack the ballcarrier, too.

But Tillman wasn’t at Halas Hall to run a tackling clinic, or to run cornerback drills. He was there to inspire and to motivate.

“To not be afraid to take chances,” Zacch Pickens said about his takeaways from Tillman. “When there’s an opportunity, take it. Don’t take it for granted. Always show up, show out, do what you’re supposed to do in that moment.”

Gervon Dexter thought it was great that the team gave them the opportunity to hear from Tillman at the outset of the summer program.

“His message was really just compete and win,” Dexter said. “All of the little things that he did made a big impact on the game, so his main thing was just focus on the little things and compete.”

With over 60 guys at rookie minicamp, the reality is most players at Halas Hall won’t make it to training camp, let alone earn a job on the 53-man roster. But it’s not impossible for one of the lesser-heralded players to catch a coach’s eye and earn more time with the team. After all, four undrafted players from last year’s rookie minicamp were on the team’s final roster: Chase Allen, Jaylon Jones, Jack Sanborn and Jake Tonges.

The key for any of these players to make the team is to demonstrate that they understand what coaches are trying to teach them, absorbing it and trying to make the prescribed adjustments on the field. That was a big part of Tillman’s message, too.

“One thing he said is ‘run to criticism,’” said Tyrique Stevenson. “I take that very personal. I definitely was enlightened by it because it gave me an opportunity to realize that criticism is there to help. Everybody’s not gonna love you. You’re not put in the world for that. But I’m gonna be the best me that I can and take the criticism and grow as a person and as a man.”

It’s one thing for a coach to say something like that in front of a team, and it’s another thing entirely when an incredibly successful player says it. So it’s no wonder that the Bears invited Tillman to speak for the second year in a row.

“Just outstanding,” said Eberflus. “It means a lot when it’s coming from him, because he’s a special guy.”

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