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Tillman offers advice to Bears rookies at minicamp

Former Bears cornerback Charles Tillman
Former Bears cornerback Charles Tillman

For the second straight year, former Bears star cornerback Charles Tillman visited Halas Hall to speak to the players who are participating in the team's rookie minicamp.

Tillman, who played 12 of his 13 NFL seasons with the Bears from 2003-14, addressed the group Friday morning after being invited by coach Matt Eberflus.

"I think it's a great message," Eberflus said. "What a great story. What a great Bear. Obviously, we all know the career he had, and he can implement some wisdom onto those guys, and really excited to have him in the building. Always great to see him. So, that was cool."

Tillman congratulated the players for reaching the NFL but cautioned that "the sad reality is some of y'all won't be in this room when the season starts." He followed by urging the prospects to always work hard and take copious notes in meetings.

Tillman certainly understands the secrets to success. A 2003 second-round pick from Louisiana-Lafayette, he owns Bears 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.

Asked why he invited Tillman back for a second consecutive year, Eberflus said: "Just his message about being a pro, about what it takes. It's not going to be easy. You've got to handle 'hard' better and you're going to have to go through adversity. But it's the guys that persevere that make the difference. He talks about preparation and the passion and the perseverance that it takes to be a pro. Just outstanding. And it means a lot when it's coming from him because he's a special guy."

Tillman advised the young players to "run toward criticism" so they can get a better understanding of what they need to improve and then address those issues. The message resonated with cornerback Tyrique Stevenson, a second-round pick from Miami. 

"I definitely was enlightened by it because it gave me an opportunity to realize that criticism is there to help," Stevenson said. "Everybody's not going to love you. You're not put in the world for that. But I'm going to be the best me that I can and take the criticism and grow as a person and as a man." 

Tillman advised the young players to maintain a championship mentality and be competitive and fight. He also suggested that they volunteer to play special teams, because it's typically a quicker way to get on the field, and also take full advantage of the services the Bears player engagement department provides. 

Tillman also urged the prospects to appreciate being part of such a storied franchise.

"You guys get to be a part of that history," he said. "You guys get to be a part of that brotherhood. Don't take it lightly. It means something." 

Tillman advised the players to always remember when they're out in public that they're representing themselves, their families and the Bears. 

"When you go out, make smart choices, be good people and I promise you this city will love you forever," he said.