Veterans day may be over, but we would be remiss if did not mention Pat Tillman. Pat Tillman would have turned 45 on November 6th. He was a seventh round pick by the Cardinals in the 1998 draft out of Arizona State as a safety. Tillman was a hybrid before they become popular as he had the skills and intangibles to play linebacker. Many didn’t think of much of the pick except as just trying to keep the local kid in state as a special teams player. But Tillman had other plans.
It didn’t take long for Tillman to become a fixture on the Cardinals defense and emerge as a team leader. He even turned down lucrative free agency offers to stay with the team even though they were not always very good. His intelligence, physicality, and hard hitting nature solidified him as a player everyone wanted on their team. Tillman was also known to march to the beat of his own drum and was viewed as a genuinely good person who would always do the right thing.
Once again, it came time for a new contract to be signed that would make Tillman a very rich man. However, at the same time the nation was under attack. After the attacks on 9/11, Pat Tillman turned down a $3.6 million offer he had and decided to enlist in 2002. He became an Army Ranger and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. During what would be his final tour in 2004, he informed his agent that he would like to return to the NFL when he came home. The Cardinals were interested in having him back on the team. In addition, the Patriots, Cowboys, Rams (who were in St. Louis at the time), and Seahawks were also interested in bringing him in. Who wouldn’t want that kind of player, character, and leader in their locker room?
Tragedy And Legacy
Unfortunately, Tillman never made it back to the NFL and was killed in Spera, Khost Province, Afghanistan in 2004 at age 27. Stories emerged that he died in battle, but the story kept changing. After a mass coverup by the Army, it was revealed that his death was a result of friendly fire. In his honor, the Pat Tillman Foundation was formed. The goal of the foundation is to provide academic scholarships and leadership opportunities to remarkable veterans and military spouses.
The Pat Tillman Scholar program helps empower the next generation of leaders. Additionally, there are charity runs called Pat’s Runs all over the country to benefit the foundation. Tillman’s #40 has been retired by the Cardinals and #42 was retired by Arizona State. There is even a petition to retire #40 univerially in the NFL that started in May 2021. We cannot forget about Pat Tillman as a player, man, and American hero.
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