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The day Pat Tillman died

Posted by Darren Urban on April 22, 2018 – 9:22 am

My kids were 4 and 2 so I was up early to help feed them breakfast with my wife when my cell phone rang. It was the producer at a local TV station I knew. She wanted to know if I had heard anything about Pat Tillman being killed in combat. I hadn’t, but my mind flashed back to Pat’s surprise visit to the Cardinals in their final 2003 road trip — to Seattle, near where Tillman was based after his initial Middle East tour — and the knowledge he had re-upped for another tour, even though he had finished out his mandatory service.

It was true, of course. Tillman was killed on April 22, and the news had trickled back as April 23 began in Arizona. It was Friday, the day before the draft. I had been planning only on writing a story that day about the Cardinals picking third (and, even with the top quarterbacks available, it seemed pretty clear the Cards would select Larry Fitzgerald with their first-round pick.) Instead, it was about helping produce a special section for the East Valley Tribune about Tillman’s life and his time at ASU and with the Cardinals, and a Sports Illustrated cover story that should’ve just been about something else, I don’t know, maybe the Eli Manning-Chargers dust-up. Certainly not the passing of such a promising man.

The Cardinals had then-VP Michael Bidwill and offensive lineman Pete Kendall (pictured) come out and speak, and also Anthony Edwards, the team’s director of player programs and one-time receiver. It was such an odd day, with the overwhelming sadness contrasted with the fact the draft — the NFL’s annual rebirth for teams — coming the next two days. The coaches that knew him the best were not around, with Denny Green having taken over just a few months before. But because Tillman had been a part of the Arizona landscape for so long, everyone in the Valley knew him. These are the things I think about — as well as 9/11 — when I take part in Pat’s Run every year, as thousands did so yesterday.

It’s been 14 years. On this day, though, it feels like it just happened.


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Posted in Blog | 8 Comments »


8 Responses to “The day Pat Tillman died”

  1. By Steve on Apr 22, 2018 | Reply

    Shame on the military for initially saying he was killed by enemy fire until later confessing it was by friendly fire when they knew it all along.

  2. By Dan Nicholson on Apr 22, 2018 | Reply

    Yes, none of us will ever forget. Our ball team had flown into Dallas to play TCU a 3 game series and we get into our hotel room & coach and I turn on TV. It’s all over every station with his military- football pictures. People were guessing as to what happened, what’s next.
    At the opener of our series, TCU did a moment of silence for all , so
    People were affected everywhere. God Bless ,Pat Tillman.

  3. By Dr. G. on Apr 22, 2018 | Reply

    Some fans may recall my post from a few years ago about some of Tillman’s thoughts about life’s purpose and how he would perch himself atop a light pole ((scary)) high above ASU stadium just thinking about his values. The 911 attack brought forth for him a decision to make a difference…the Army Rangers…to help eradicate evil in the world.

    For me, it was clear how he thought…as we watched the Twin Towers collapse. I had a gut wrenching feeling that lasted seemingly forever…as a place where I once worked at IBM. Regardless of the confusing stories that came about, Pat Tillman made his statement about life…it continues today and on…RIP Pat.

  4. By El Gallo on Apr 22, 2018 | Reply

    A good man.

    That alone would be enough for him to hear I believe, that’s the type of man he was.
    But for us, there aren’t enough words or stories to fully describe such a virtuous young man.

    Rest in Peace

  5. By Scott H on Apr 22, 2018 | Reply

    One can only hope that Pat Tillman will forever rest in the peace that he deserves. Can only hope that his family has peace, too. I wonder about that after what came out later about the friendly-fire thing and some of the covering up that may have gone on.

    What matters are the choices he made. First, from a Cardinals fan perspective, he chose to stay here when he could have taken more money to play elsewhere. It meant something to him.

    Then, from an American’s perspective, he chose his country over an NFL career. Joining his brother in a troubled part of the world to fight for his country meant something to him.

    I have yet to wear my Tillman jersey and not have people go out of their way to give a thumbs-up. What he did meant something to people.

    When I made my first trip to UoP in 2014, seeing Pat’s statue was a necessary part of being there, just as seeing the Arizona Memorial will be a necessary part of my first trip to Hawaii ( someday ). Because it meant something to me.

    Pat Tillman and what he did just matter to people. It goes beyond his playing for the Cardinals but we can – and should – always be proud that ours was the uniform he wore before he ultimately chose the uniform he knew he was meant to wear.

    Thanks for this one, Darren. I had no idea today was the anniversary.

  6. By Coach K on Apr 22, 2018 | Reply

    Very sad day for everyone. Even more sad for his family who had to deal with our government trying to create a false story of how he died.

    Tillman truly loved his country. I hope our country can survive the military industrial complex and the things they do.

    Pat’s sacrifice taught everyone many lessons about our military.

  7. By Ted on Apr 24, 2018 | Reply

    A true hero that everyone can tell their kids about. My eyes mist over whenever I think of Pat Tillman. I truly believe that the time period of Jake Plummer and Pat Tillman was the most honest, and motivating period of Cardinal’s history. Although I have moved to Las Vegas, and will someday become a Raiders fan, the Cardinals will always have a place in my heart due to those earlier days when I was a season ticket holder. You can also bet that Pat’s death made an impact on Larry Fitzgerald and helped make him the man he is.

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