NFL

Charles Tillman Earned $50 Million in the NFL and Inspired a Generation of Defensive Backs

The sight of Charles Tillman running one’s way was enough to make even the toughest ball carriers flinch.

Tillman delivered his fair share of hard hits, sure. But where the duo of Tillman and star linebacker Brian Urlacher especially excelled on the Chicago Bears’ defense was forcing turnovers.

Tillman and his trademark “Peanut Punch” dominated the NFL for over a decade. Nearly five years after Tillman’s final NFL game, it’s clear that his playstyle left a permanent legacy on the league at large.

Charles Tillman is a Chicago Bears legend

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A second-round pick out of Louisiana in 2003, Charles Tillman had an excellent NFL career.

In 168 games across 13 seasons, 12 with the Bears, Tillman snagged 38 interceptions, forced 44 fumbles, recovered another 12, and scored 10 defensive touchdowns.

Surprisingly, Tillman only earned Pro Bowl honors after the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Tillman also received first-team All-Pro honors after the 2012 season.

The veteran defensive back was also credited with 140 pass breakups in his 13 seasons. Tillman earned $50.9 million in his 13 seasons, according to Spotrac.

Tillman perfected the ‘Peanut Punch’

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Football fans knew Charles Tillman for one thing, and one thing only: the Peanut Punch.

Put simply, Tillman would punch the ball out of an opposing ballcarrier’s hands at the perfect angle, allowing it to drop and for either he or a teammate to snag the ball for a turnover.

According to the Baltimore Ravens’ official website, Tillman told CBS Sports’ Evan Washburn that the move was similar to a boxing move.

“Guys will go for the ball, but he looks like a boxer out there. It’s a calculated punch. You know where to strike.”

Tillman’s 44 forced fumbles were tied for sixth-most in NFL history as of Oct. 25, 2020. Tillman had six seasons where he forced at least four fumbles, including knocking 10 balls loose in 2012.

Charles Tillman inspired a generation of defenders

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Charles Tillman played his final NFL game on January 3, 2016.

Nearly five years later, Tillman’s legacy lives on in the Peanut Punch. Numerous active NFL defensive backs have tried following in Tillman’s footsteps and trying to be the master boxer, laying the strike that forces a ball free.

Ravens star cornerback Marlon Humphrey is arguably doing the best job. Humphrey forced four fumbles in the Ravens’ first six games this season. Baltimore has returned two of the four fumbles Humphrey forced for defensive touchdowns. 

Tillman tweeted he is a “fan” of Humphrey, who earned first-team All-Pro honors for the first time last season. 

If Humphrey becomes the modern Charles Tillman, don’t expect his move to be called the “Peanut Punch 2.0” or anything along those lines.

Humphrey calls his move the “Fruit Punch.” Whatever the name, it belongs to a technique that could have the Baltimore Ravens competing for a Super Bowl title in the coming months.

All contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.