Arizona Cardinal Years

In the 1998 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals selected Pat Tillman in the seventh round. Even though many people questioned his ability to make the opening-day roster, he soon became the team’s starting safety and broke the franchise record for tackles in 2000 with 224. Already a hometown favorite, Pat’s rugged play earned him accolades across the country.

pat-tillmanMeanwhile, Pat refused to allow the fame and fortune of being a professional football player affect him. He drove the same old truck he had in college (without air conditioning) and refused to be tethered by a cell-phone. Pat also found new ways to challenge himself off the field. Physically, he competed in a marathon prior to the 2000 season and a half Ironman triathlon the following summer. Mentally, he pursued a master’s degree in history from his alma mater and read voraciously in an attempt to better understand many different topics, including the roots of current political and social systems, the conflicts among them, all the while developing, debating, and discussing his ideas with his eager listeners, family and friends. Pat made ‘your passion his passion’ and listened intently as his friends, family, and strangers shared their thoughts and opinions.

During his years as a Cardinal, Pat volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club of Arizona, Boys Hope Girls Hope and March of Dimes, and went to elementary, middle and high schools around the Phoenix valley to read to kids and give talks.

Pat married the woman he had been devoted to since high school, Marie, in the spring of 2002. Upon returning from their honeymoon, he informed the Cardinals of the decision he made with Marie and Kevin to place his NFL career on hold and become a U.S. Army Ranger with his brother. The decision shocked many and garnered national media attention despite his refusal to speak publicly about the choice.

His words from an interview the day after the attacks of September 11th, 2001, speak for themselves: “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”.

“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 calling.”

U.S. Army Rangers

Pat and and his brother Kevin joined the U.S. Army in July of 2002, committing to a three-year term. They were assigned to the second battalion of the 75th pat-and-kevinRanger 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.

Pat and Kevin were recipients of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 11th Annual ESPY Awards in 2003.

In the evening of April 22nd, 2004, Pat’s unit was ambushed as it traveled through the rugged, canyon terrain of Eastern Afghanistan. His heroic efforts to provide cover for his fellow soldiers as they escaped from the canyon led to his tragic death via fratricide.

I couldn’t believe it the day I heard he was killed.  I grieved for his family and our country for losing such a hero.  Pat, and the rest of our fallen heros, will definitely be on my mind on Sunday.

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