Throughout his illustrious NFL career, Charles Tillman racked up accomplishments that exceeded his own expectations: a pair of Pro Bowl appearances, an All-Pro selection and the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.
All that was left was a Super Bowl ring.
Charles fell just short of that precious hardware at the end of the 2006 season, when the Chicago Bears were defeated by the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI in Miami.
Determined to help the Carolina Panthers win it all, Charles attempted to quickly return after partially tearing the ACL in his right knee in November. He was fine for two games, including a brilliant performance (one interception and a forced and recovered fumble) against the New York Giants. But in the season finale, Charles completely tore his ACL.
His season was over.
It surely rekindled memories of injuries past, including his junior year of high school. After a brilliant sophomore year, Charles suffered a hip injury during the preseason and missed a big chunk of the regular season.
Being sidelined as a junior hurt his chances of being recruited by colleges.
In life, we don’t have the luxury to choose the inevitable challenges and setbacks we’ll face. But we do have the ability to choose how we handle them.
“I’m slightly disappointed that I’m not playing, but at the same time, I’m enjoying the process with my teammates,” Tillman told The Advocate. “Just trying to be the best teammate I can be, whether it’s getting water, getting some towels, running errands, helping cats out on the sideline, coaching them up. Whatever I can do.”
Here’s what he posted on Twitter the day after he suffered his season-ending injury…
It’s all good everybody. We’re 15-1 and have a first round bye and home field through out the playoffs. 😎😎
— Charles Tillman (@peanuttillman) January 4, 2016
He retweeted this scripture…
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. -Psalms 46:1
— Scripture Truth (@Scripture_Truth) January 5, 2016
A torn ACL won’t stop @peanuttillman for helping our patients! Thank you! #KeepPounding https://t.co/0u0CUGi0Bb
— LevineChildren’sHosp (@LevineChildrens) January 5, 2016
Thanks Charlotte for helping us raise 💵 for the foundation. I appreciate all the love and support. Truly blessed. pic.twitter.com/BEloCNcGqQ
— Charles Tillman (@peanuttillman) January 12, 2016
Then, three hours after surgery, he posted a picture on Instagram with his thumbs up.
@peanuttillman hangs out w/elementary students at #smithfield for breakfast. #wcnc pic.twitter.com/a26LXbAhKR
— Richard DeVayne (@rdevaynewcnc) January 19, 2016
Thank you @peanuttillman for such a motivational speech. Plyler left with big dreams! pic.twitter.com/C1cBxFexVq — Cameron Hunter (@CHunter72101) January 20, 2016
Needless to say, many noticed…
Charles Tillman had surgery to repair his torn ACL on Wednesday.
He’s out on the field supporting his team today. pic.twitter.com/kHxWFooCNw
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 17, 2016
And as the final seconds of the Panthers’ NFC Championship game victory were ticking down, Fox cameras captured this moment…
Would love to see @peanuttillman get a ring. #AZvsCAR pic.twitter.com/X7tB1CqIGG — Lyndsay Petruny (@LPetruny) January 25, 2016
And NFL Network tweeted this…
A very happy @peanuttillman on the sideline.
Get well soon, & #KeepPounding pic.twitter.com/7wYpI3JeYx
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) January 25, 2016
Not sure any of us will ever have a selfie this cool, @peanuttillman pic.twitter.com/8UivCqgEdC — Jeremy Igo (@CarolinaHuddle) January 25, 2016
#KeepPounding #SB50 pic.twitter.com/oOTkDIhY9j
— Charles Tillman (@peanuttillman) January 25, 2016
Twinsies! Who wore it better? @RealMikeRob or @peanuttillman in @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/GvuiiYxF0Q — Dan Hellie (@DanHellie) February 3, 2016
Dabbin’ with @panthers DB @peanuttillman. pic.twitter.com/a7af748C56
— Mike & Mike (@MikeAndMike) February 3, 2016
Stuff that happens at practice: @peanuttillman decides to borrow the big lens📸 pic.twitter.com/B6dWcDCcuJ — Melissa Melvin (@mmelvinphoto) February 4, 2016
Panthers CB @peanuttillman at @USAA NFLX Lounge w/ @Edelman11 speaking w/ local military families. #SaluteToService pic.twitter.com/Rd2jqYobZ2
— Jacquelyn Davis (@JacquelynKDavis) February 7, 2016
I think @kelvinbenjamin and I might be able to suit up on Sunday for #SB50. Whatcha think? pic.twitter.com/vfLZ5xpbOd — Charles Tillman (@peanuttillman) February 3, 2016
And his coaches and teammates are grateful – and better – for it.
“It’s hard to begin to describe what he’s meant to me and, more importantly, this group,” Panthers assistant head coach Steve Wilks, who runs the secondary, told the Chicago Tribune. “His leadership, wisdom, experience was definitely filtered through Josh Norman (and) every other guy in that room. Even when Peanut got hurt, he stayed around the team to talk to the guys. His leadership is tremendous, and my experience with him in the past, I knew what he was bringing, not only what he brings on the field but off the field, his work ethic, his dedication to the game, how he studies the game.”
Added Panthers safety Tre Boston, “He brought leadership, he brought personality.”
Above all, though, Charles has displayed character in the face of adversity.