Bears' Charles Tillman named Walter Payton Man of the Year

By Bill Bradley, contributing editor

Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman and Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh won the two awards related to player health and safety Saturday night during Saturday's "NFL Honors" event at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

Tillman was selected as the winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award for his community service while Harbaugh was honored with the Salute to Service Award for his work with the military and its families.

"I'm grateful to be the recipient of such a prestigious award," Tillman said in a statement before the ceremony. "Walter Payton's legacy continues to be a beacon of service and giving, and I'm just trying to do my small part. I don't think any of the finalists do what they do to get recognition, but we do it because we are passionate about helping others."

Harbaugh said: "My good fortune is that I've had the opportunity to spend time with members of our military. From those stationed in the Middle East to others I have met in the States, there is a common theme with those I have met and some whom we've put in front of our team. These are great and smart men and women, and they are sacrificing for all of us. They deserve our respect, support and, importantly, our thanks every day."

Tillman, who is in his 11th season with Payton's Chicago Bears, ranks third in team history with 36 interceptions. His off-the-field work in Chicago has been highlighted through his Cornerstone Foundation. The Foundation includes Charles' Locker, which provides 370,000 children annually with entertainment systems to help them during hospital stays, and The Tiana Fund, which has distributed more than $1 million to 300 at-risk families.

Beyond Chicago, Tillman and his wife Jackie have helped to build a school in Cambodia, sponsored children through the Urban Promise program in Camden, N.J., and have purchased and donated more than 700 tickets to Bears home games since 2008 through the Bears' Home Team Hand-Off program.

Tillman also has helped the military by participating USO tours to Iraq and volunteered with the USO of Illinois on Thanksgiving to serve meals to local troops. He earned the Salute to Service Award in 2012.

Recent winners of the Man of the Year award include Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys last year and now-retired Matt Birk of the Baltimore Ravens in 2011.

Tillman will receive the Gladiator statue, an original art creation by noted sculptor Daniel Schwartz, and a $20,000 donation in his name to a charity of his choice.

Harbaugh, who led the Ravens to the Super Bowl title last year, has a 62-33 record in six seasons with Baltimore. He has shown a passion for supporting military initiatives by participating in the NFL-USO coaches' tour of the Middle East in 2009, visiting numerous military bases, purchasing school supplies for military children and creating care packages for overseas troops.

Harbaugh, who was a finalist for the award two years ago, has helped to institute the Ravens' Military Appreciation Day, an annual event that during training camp. He has taken the Ravens to Gettysburg, Pa., during offseason team activities to learn about the Civil War and he regularly hosts wounded warriors at every Ravens home game.

In 2012, he was presented with the Outstanding Civilian Service Award by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno.

Previous winners of the Salute to Service Award were Tillman and in 2011, the late Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams, who served in World War II. The award is sponsored by USAA, which provides insurance and other services to members of the U.S. military, veterans and their families. USAA will contribute $25,000 in Harbaugh's name.

"We congratulate Coach Harbaugh for winning the 2013 Salute to Service Award and thank him for his continued support of the military community," said Don Clark, USAA assistant vice president of media and sponsorship marketing. "We appreciate the exemplary commitment from all of the nominees to honor the military and their families. We are thrilled to highlight their work and hope it inspires football fans everywhere to salute all veterans and members of the U.S. armed forces."

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