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Tillman retires after 13 NFL seasons

Charles Tillman's illustrious 13-year NFL career officially ended Monday when the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback announced his retirement.

Selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2003 draft out of Louisiana-Lafayette, Tillman played 12 years in Chicago before spending last season with the Carolina Panthers.

"I've had 13 amazing years on two great teams and I'm just thankful for the love and support that I got from my teammates, the fans and my coaches," Tillman told ChicagoBears.com. "I'm thankful to everyone who has helped me get to where I am right now because I definitely didn't do it by myself."

Tillman made an immediate impact with the Bears, becoming a starter four games into his rookie season and quickly developing into a star playmaker. He was part of a dominant defense that helped the Bears win three NFC North titles and one conference championship.

Tillman set 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).

With Charles Tillman announcing his retirement, ChicagoBears.com takes a look back at the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback's illustrious 13-year NFL career.

Tillman turned forcing fumbles into an art form by smacking the ball away from opponents, a technique dubbed the "Peanut Punch." He forced 42 fumbles with the Bears, including a career-high 10 in 2012 when he was voted to his second straight Pro Bowl.

Off the field, Tillman's contributions have been just as impressive. He was selected the 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year primarily for his work with the Cornerstone Foundation, which has impacted over one million children and raised more than $1 million.

Tillman created the Cornerstone Foundation in 2005 to provide resources to help kids excel in school. But after his three-month-old daughter, Tiana, was diagnosed with a rare heart ailment and underwent a life-saving heart transplant in 2008, the mission was changed to improving the lives of critically and chronically ill children.

When Tillman's tenure with the Bears ended a year ago, chairman George H. McCaskey said in a statement: "The Bears have been around for nearly a century and Charles Tillman will go down as one of the best to ever wear blue and orange.

"Charles' 'Peanut Punch' is now a part of Bears lore. We witnessed what I believe is the best takeaway artist of his era. But as impressive as his on-field accomplishments are, his contributions off the field are unmatched. Through his Cornerstone Foundation, Charles and his family have made an impact on the lives of many. He was duly honored as the 2013 Walter Payton Man of the Year and the 2012 NFL Salute to Service winner for his dedication. We are deeply appreciative of how he has represented our team."

Asked why he chose to retire, Tillman said: "I just felt like it was time to do it. I'm going out on my own terms and I figured, 'what the heck, Monday, July 18, I think I'll do it today.'"

As he steps away from the NFL, the 35-year-old said that he will miss the time he spent bonding with teammates in the locker room more than anything else.

"All the stories and all the crazy things and the games we used to play, you'll always miss the locker room because you can never recreate that in another job," Tillman said. "The locker room is the best atmosphere. That's why you play the game, the locker room. That's where you develop camaraderie and friendships."

When Tillman joined the Bears as a rookie in 2003, his objectives were simple.

"My expectations were making [the team], trying to learn and just be a sponge; soak up as much information as I could and learn from my veteran teammates," Tillman said.

He remains especially grateful to Dwayne Joseph, a former Bears defensive back who served as the team's director of player development when Tillman was a rookie.

"Dwayne Joseph really helped me understand that this game is a business," Tillman said. "He helped me out a lot my rookie year. I looked to him a lot for information. He taught me how to be a professional, that I'm the president of 'Charles Tillman Incorporated,' and that helped me last 13 years in a tough profession."

Tillman announced his retirement Monday evening via a YouTube video entitled "Peanut Retires." The 3-minute 16-second video features him utilizing his famed "Peanut Punch" to knock items out of the hands of his children, wife and former Bears teammates.

He strips a bowling ball away from Jerry Azumah, a stop watch from Alex Brown and a White Castle meal from Anthony Adams. The video ends with Tillman inserting a card into a time clock and hanging up his cleats, followed by the message: "Thanks for all the love and support on and off the field."

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