While NFL players are taking a knee during the national anthem, one former All Pro seeks to join the FBI


While NFL players are taking various actions to protest President Trump calling them out for kneeling during the national anthem, one former All Pro is trying to become an FBI agent.

Forget unsuspecting NFL wide receivers. The next guy Charles Tillman executes the “Peanut Punch” on might be a fugitive running from the law, reported Chicago Tribune.

The former Chicago Bears cornerback recently began training to join the FBI, multiple individuals told the Tribune, including a high-ranking law enforcement source who is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Tillman, 36, retired from the NFL last summer. In doing so, he signed a ceremonial one-day contract with the Bears on July 22, 2016. This came after playing 12 of his 13 seasons in the Windy City. His final year of football was spent with the Carolina Panthers. As a result, he helped them to a 15-1 record and appearance in Super Bowl 50 after the 2015 season.

Tillman was known for his ability to jar the ball loose from offensive players. Consequently, he forced 44 fumbles during his career, nearly twice as many as the next closest defensive back during his time in the league. Moreover, he was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and was named the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2013 for his philanthropic efforts. He is considered one of the best cornerbacks in Bears history.

FBI guidelines mandate prospective candidates for hiring as a special agent must be at least 23 years old but younger than 37 at the time of appointment. Tillman turns 37 on Feb. 23.

“We don’t speak about personnel matters,” special agent Garrett Croon, a spokesman for the Chicago bureau, told the Tribune.

Tillman earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette before the Bears drafted him in the second round in 2003. He grew up in a military family. His father, Donald Tillman Jr., was a sergeant in the Army. As a result of being an “Army Brat,” Tillman attended 11 schools from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Tillman not only supports children’s charities through his Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation, he also has long been active in military endeavors. In 2010, he spent eight days on a USO tour visit with troops in Iraq and Kuwait. He was selected as the winner of the NFL’s Salute to Service award in 2012.

Tillman received the largest contract paid to a cornerback in Bears history when he signed a six-year, $40.55 million extension in 2007. That deal expired in 2013 and he re-signed for $3.25 million in 2014 before his final season with the Panthers, when he reunited with coach Ron Rivera on a one-year, $3.05 million deal.

In his first year in retirement from the NFL, Tillman worked for Fox Sports on the “Fox NFL Kickoff” show.

Yet it appears that he is trading post-football career in television for law enforcement.

Former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt, who remains a fixture on that Fox show, was aware Tillman was pursuing a job with the FBI.

“First-class,” Wannstedt said. “What a guy. Charles Tillman is as good as they come and I had a great time working with him.”

Coincidentally, Wannstedt considered a career with the FBI after he graduated from Pitt. At the time, he was a low-level assistant at his alma mater and wasn’t sure coaching was for him. However, one day after playing racquetball with future Dallas Cowboy head coach, Jimmy Johnson, in 1979, they went to a restaurant in Pittsburgh. At that time, Johnson put Wannstedt on a course for a lifetime in football.

“I wasn’t sure about this coaching thing or what I was going to do and the FBI, I actually met with a couple people and interviewed and I was probably going to take the test and take the next step if I didn’t get into coaching,” Wannstedt said. “We were having a beer and Jimmy talked about coming with him to Oklahoma State and why he thought I should do it. … He really was the one that convinced me.

“I could have stayed at Pitt with Jackie Sherrill and we had (Dan) Marino and Hugh Green. We had a great football team. And Jimmy said if you are going to do this thing, you gotta find out if you can do it. The only way to do it is to roll up your sleeves and jump in with both feet.”

Tillman is doing just that, although it will be with the FBI.

(Photo courtesy U.S. Army)

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