Today would have been Pat Tillman's 38th birthday.
As an Arizona State University alumni and U.S. Army veteran, I see it
fitting that my first official blog entry is in dedication to one of ASU's
legends and a national hero.
Here is Tillman's bio from the Pat Tillman Foundation website:
"Patrick Tillman was born to parents Mary and Patrick on November 6,
1976, in San Jose, California. The oldest of three boys, Pat was a caring and
protective brother and a natural leader with a tendency to push limits – in
life, the classroom and on the field.
At Leland High School in San Jose, California (1990-1994), that challenger
mentality would become his signature. His diligence and relentless curiosity
amazed almost everyone he came into contact with. In high school he was a star
who led his high school team to a Central Coast Division I Football
Championship – after he was told he was too small to ever play football.
Arizona State University recognized Pat’s potential both in classroom and on
field with a scholarship to play for the Sun Devils. What Pat lacked in
physical size he more than made up for in intensity as linebacker. He led ASU
to the 1997 Rose Bowl after an undefeated season, earned three consecutive
selections to the Pac-10 All-Academic Football Team, a 1st team Academic
All-American honor, as well as the NCAA’s Post-Graduate Scholarship for
academic and athletic excellence. Between games, Pat earned a B.S. in
Marketing, graduating Summa Cum Laude from ASU’s prestigious W.P. Carey School
of Business, in three and a half years.
Pat gained admiration and high regards from his professors, coaches and fans
alike. “You don’t find guys that have that combination of being as bright and
as tough as him,” remarked his ASU coach. The Arizona Cardinals agreed, and
selected Pat in the 7th round of the 1998 NFL Draft. Many people doubted his
ability to deliver as a starter on the Cardinal’s opening-day roster. He
answered that skepticism by becoming the team’s starting safety and broke the franchise
record for tackles in 2000 with 224.
Pat’s NFL success did not go to his head or break his principles. He still
drove to games in the same beat up truck he had in college. He had no
cell-phone. Instead he chose to read voraciously and develop, debate, and
discuss his ideas with eager listeners, family and friends. He made your
passion his passion. In the off-season he challenged himself physically with
marathons and half-Ironman triathlons while pursuing a Master’s degree in
history from his alma mater. He volunteered with Boys and Girls Clubs, the
March of Dimes, and read and talked to students in schools across the Phoenix
The day after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Pat told a reporter, “At
times like this you stop and think about just how good we have it, what kind of
system we live in, and the freedoms we are allowed. A lot of my family has gone
and fought in wars and I really haven’t done a damn thing.”
In the spring of 2002, Pat married his high school love, Marie, and upon his
return from their honeymoon, announced to the Cardinals he had decided to place
his NFL career on hold to enlist in the U.S. Army with his brother, Kevin. The
decision shocked many and garnered national media attention despite his refusal
to speak publicly about the choice.
'Pat knew his purpose in life,” Dave McGinnis, former Arizona Cardinals
head-coach said. “He proudly walked away from a career in football to a greater
Pat and Kevin joined the U.S. Army that July, committing to a three-year
term. They were assigned to the second battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment in
Fort Lewis, Washington. They served tours in Iraq during Operation Iraqi
Freedom in 2003, and in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2004.
On the evening of April 22, 2004, Pat’s unit was ambushed as it traveled
through the rugged, canyon terrain of eastern Afghanistan. His heroic efforts
to provide cover for fellow soldiers as they escaped from the canyon led to his
untimely and tragic death via fratricide.
While the story of Pat’s death may have been the most publicized in the War
on Terror, it is Pat’s life, principles and service that are his true legacy.
Pat’s family and friends started the Pat Tillman Foundation to carry forward
that legacy by giving military veterans and spouses who embody those principles
the educational tools and support to reach their fullest potential as leaders,
no matter how they choose to serve." (http://pattillmanfoundation.org/)
Happy birthday Pat.
Rest in peace.