I've been tooting the Charles Tillman trumpet for a couple of years now, and after Sunday's record-setting four forced fumbles, the national media sound like Peanut's personal horn section. It's about time! Because after Tillman suits up in orange and blue for the last time, he will at some point don a gold jacket on a humid August afternoon in northeastern Ohio as he's inducted into the Hall of Fame.
That's a bold prediction to make about a cornerback who's made only one Pro Bowl in his nine-year career. But this year will bring his second invitation, and with good health he'll make two or three more. (If they're still playing the Pro Bowl by then.) Even if he never says "aloha" again, he'll need to play only a few more years at his current level to clinch a bronze bust. Here's why.
Only 12 players have forced at least as many fumbles as Peanut's 36, with Jason Taylor leading at 46. Eleven are defensive linemen or frequently blitzing linebackers who get to knock balls loose by blindsiding quarterbacks. The other is Brian Dawkins, the eight-time Pro Bowl safety who forced 36 in 224 games. Peanut's done it in only 138. He may pass Dawkins THIS SUNDAY.
And when Tillman's interceptions are factored in, he's a turnover-creating machine with few peers. Only six players have more picks-plus-forced fumbles than Peanut (68): Rod Woodson (91), Ronnie Lott (79), Charles Woodson (84), Darren Sharper (71), Ed Reed (71) and Dawkins (73). The first two are in the Hall; last four probably will be as well. Tillman could sit fourth on that list by January. Remember, that list counts everyone who has ever played in the NFL. Ever.
Also, more so than the baseball or basketball Halls of Fame, Canton considers character and off-the-field service in its voting. Tillman was one of the three finalists for the 2012 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. His work with his Cornerstone Foundation will carry serious weight.
Did I get to his eight career return touchdowns? I didn't? Ran out of space. Go ahead and call me crazy. Call me a homer. But you should consider calling No. 33 a future Hall of Famer.
Alex Quigley is a RedEye special contributor.
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