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Tillman delivers advice to young Bears players

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Learn your playbook and understand what's required of you to succeed in the NFL.

Those were two pieces of advice that former Bears star cornerback Charles Tillman delivered to an attentive audience of almost 70 NFL hopefuls Thursday night at the team's rookie minicamp.

Tillman, who starred for the Bears from 2003-14, was invited to Halas Hall to speak to the prospects by first-year coach Matt Eberflus.

Tillman told the players to take a deep breath and understand that they're at rookie minicamp because general manager Ryan Poles saw the talent they possess. But Tillman cautioned that "things are going to change now" and they must learn how to be a pro.

"You went from playing with boys," he said. "Now y'all playing with men."

Tillman relayed a story from his rookie season in 2003 when he was asked by a coach during a meeting to diagram his responsibilities on a play. He aced the test, but when the coach asked Tillman a follow-up question about the assignments of other defensive players, he was stumped.

"I was like, 'I don't know. I'm not a safety. I'm not a D-end. I'm not a linebacker,'" Tillman told the rookies. "The coach said, 'You're in the league. You're in the NFL. You need to know what everybody does.'

"So, that's one piece of advice that I would give you all right now: Learn your playbook; know what everybody does."

Tillman followed that suggestion and developed into arguably the best cornerback in Bears history. A second-round pick from Louisiana-Lafayette, he was an integral part of a dominant defense that helped win three NFC North titles and one conference championship.

Tillman owns franchise records with nine defensive touchdowns, eight interception return TDs and 675 interception return yards. His 36 interceptions are the most by a cornerback in team history and third most overall behind safeties Gary Fencik (38) and Richie Petitbon (37).

Known for smacking the ball away from opponents, a technique dubbed the "Peanut Punch," Tillman forced 42 fumbles in 12 seasons, including a career-high 10 in 2012 when he was voted to his second straight Pro Bowl.

Tillman also told the rookies about how special it is to play for the Bears.

"If you work hard for this team, I swear to you this city will love you," he said. "This is a Bears town first. This city bleeds blue and orange for the Chicago Bears."

Tillman received a warm reception from the young players.

"It was amazing because that was a guy you grew up watching," said sixth-round pick Trestan Ebner, a running back from Baylor. "I watched him play. He's the best guy ever to force fumbles, so for me to be able to put the same uniform on as him and some of the legends is just a great feeling."

Second-round selection Kyler Gordon, a cornerback from Washington, said that his college coaches frequently showed tapes of Tillman forcing fumbles.

"We watched him at U-Dub all the time," Gordon said. "We always practiced the 'Peanut Punch,' and then he walked behind us [Thursday] and I was like, 'Damn, that's him!' That was cool. Just hearing what he said, it was cool to get the information he was talking about."

"It just shows the passion, especially the passion he played with," added third-round choice Velus Jones Jr., a receiver from Tennessee. "And it goes for even the offensive [side of the ball], the passion you play with, the greatness, the determination. It really fired me up even though he was a defensive-sided guy. Just showing the history here, what are the standards, that definitely fired me up as a receiver."

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