As you’ve you no doubt heard by now, former Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman was killed yesterday in Afghanistan. You probably remember Tillman from the news he made three years ago when he abruptly quit football to join the Army. He said he was motivated by the events of 9/11 and wanted to serve his country. I was amazed that someone could make that decision. Frankly, I couldn’t really understand it. I still don’t. I understand his intent, but I can’t fathom his bravery. I feel like I’m a pretty brave person with some pretty strong convictions, but I can’t kid myself into thinking I’d ever consider making the sacrifice he made in his life.
To understand Pat Tillman a little better, know these things about him:
- A native of Phoenix, he enrolled at Arizona State and walked on to the football team.
- By his senior year, he not only started at safety, but was named the Pac-10 defensive player of the year
- He graduated in 3.5 years with a degree in Marketing and a 3.84 GPA
- In 1997, he was drafted in the seventh round by the hometown Arizona Cardinals. Seventh round picks often don’t make the team. It’s likely they drafted him largely because of his regional ties.
- He made the team and quickly made his mark, starting ten games his rookie season.
- In 2001, he was offered a 5 year, $9 million contract by the St. Louis Rams. He rejected it on the basis of loyalty to the Cardinals.
- He instead quit football in March, 2002 and joined the Army, planning on becoming a Ranger. He walked away from a three year, $3.6 million contract.
Normally you can’t really tell much about a person from a short bulleted list. With Pat Tillman, you can. You can tell that he was a very tenacious, hard working man. He was intelligent and self-confident. He cared little about fame and money. He was extremely loyal, ethical, patriotic and brave. He was the greatest professional athlete role model that I know. He was everything you’d want your son to grow up to be. In short, he was a hero.
Thank you, Pat Tillman. May the story of your life and death inspire others to be as strong of character.