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.
Tags: Pat Tillman
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