A Tillman story

Posted by Darren Urban on April 22, 2014 – 10:12 am

There has been and will be a lot written about Pat Tillman of late given that today is the 10th anniversary of his death. (That includes my story last week.) I have written about Tillman many times over the years I have covered the team, having been here for the final two seasons of Pat in a Cardinals uniform, covered his departure into the Army and then his death. There are a few moments that come to mind with Tillman. This is just one that happens to stick in my head.

In 2000, the Cardinals were not very good. The playoff season of just two years previous was a memory. Vince Tobin was fired as head coach seven games into the year. Dave McGinnis was named interim head coach, and was able to remove the interim tag just before the final home game of the season — a relatively inspired loss to eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore. But the week before, the Cards had traveled to Jacksonville to play a Jaguars team that had been to AFC championship games recently but had gotten out to a horrible start before getting hot down the stretch. The Cards went to Florida and were hammered. The Jaguars scored on eight of 10 possessions (with the 10th lasting 14 plays, going just 31 yards and burning the final 9:45 of the clock.)

Tillman had something to say afterward.

“In this league, you have to overcome injuries, problems, coaches getting fired,” he said that day. “Nobody cares (about excuses.) Don’t tell me about the pain, show me the baby. We’re not showing the baby right now, we’re just bitching about the pain.

“They are a good offensive team. Does that give us an excuse to lay on our backs and let them roll over us? No. We didn’t play the way we want to play. … I want to say the way we are capable of playing, but we haven’t gone out and played very well and it’s hard for me to even say it. People don’t believe it.”

It was just a loss in a lost season. Given what Tillman’s life — and death — became later, it is barely a footnote. But I think it resonates with me for a couple of reasons, part of which was that I was there to hear the anger and frustration in his voice. I think of it for more than just that though. It was after the 2000 season when Tillman was a restricted free agent, when he could have signed an offer sheet with the Rams for five years and worth $9.6 million. It was a deal the Cards may not have matched, but either way, Tillman would have been paid. Instead, Tillman — who again, mind you, lived through the frustration of the 2000 season and was offered a deal with a Rams team who would end up playing in the Super Bowl the next season — wouldn’t sign the offer sheet. He came back to the Cardinals, for a one-year, $512,000 contract.

Tillman wanted to stay with McGinnis. He wanted to stay with defensive coordinator Larry Marmie. He wanted to help fix the Cardinals, rather than jump to the high-flying Rams. The Cards were the team that drafted him, that took a chance on a college linebacker who might not have translated to the NFL. He didn’t want to leave that. He wasn’t going to make excuses.

Tillman’s life, his legacy, was and is about so much more than football. For me, though, it’s hard to forget those moments in the visiting locker room in Jacksonville, and how Pat Tillman it was.



Posted in Blog | 17 Comments »

17 Responses to “A Tillman story”

  1. By Dynosoar on Apr 22, 2014 | Reply

    One of my best friends lives by the motto of “Never sacrifice principle for profit.”

    I wish I’d have known Pat Tillman, but I know people like him and try to pattern my life after his and their philosophies.

    Those red pants with the white jersey look classy. Very much like our memories of Pat, very classy. A warrior with a heart of gold. Thanks Darren, I’ve got a difficult project I’ve been working on, one of the hardest I’ve ever worked on. It’s time to dig in and “show the baby.” Time to step up and win this one.

    I may not have known Tillman and I’ll never have arms like his, but I can make his life meaningful by doing what he’d have done in my shoes.

  2. By Dynosoar on Apr 22, 2014 | Reply

    An addendum. Tillman’s life was meaningful and he doesn’t need me to make it so. I meant to say I can make his life meaningful for me and then his legacy becomes more meaningful. Especially to those my project is going to impact. Though they may not know of his influence in it, I will.

    I love that our team has Pat Tillman. I love that our country had Pat Tillman.

  3. By mal on Apr 22, 2014 | Reply


    This short little article is by far — to my mind — by far the best you have ever written about Pat.

    Good job. Thank you very much for this, sir.

  4. By Eric G on Apr 22, 2014 | Reply

    Must stop reading. Tears streaming. People can see me ….

  5. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on Apr 22, 2014 | Reply

    Pat Tillman:

    I salute you as a man of character, a true leader… something we lack, someone to emulate… wish you were here… God Bless you…

  6. By AzDesertRat1953 on Apr 22, 2014 | Reply

    I just Miss Him.

    GO CARDS!!!

  7. By T.Stone on Apr 22, 2014 | Reply

    I may have selective memory, however I remember Mr. Tillman in Flagstaff as a rookie. He wasn’t, certainly guaranteed to make the team as a late pick. He lit up a starting or projected starting RB (cant remember his name) and was admonished by coaches and players. He Hurt that dude because he was All out, All the Time and on Every play. It earned him a spot and he played above and beyond what his talent level was. He is a prime example of giving 100% at everything you do and be true to your convictions. Live life to your potential. Rest in Peace.

  8. By Scott H on Apr 22, 2014 | Reply

    I think Tillman is maybe THE best and most inspirational NFL story of all time. And it’s story we may never hear ever again because, well, stories like this just don’t happen. I’m very sorry the story ended tragically, it would have been SO much better if he could have returned after a few years and been able to return to the NFL. But it was not to be.

  9. By john on Apr 22, 2014 | Reply

    my father in-law die this last week from ALS he served two tours in Vietnam I loved the t shirt he gave me for Christmas it said “live your life
    so as to preacher won’t have to lie at your funeral” I think pat would have liked lonnie

  10. By GWitt on Apr 22, 2014 | Reply

    Well written Darren,
    I remember when I heard the news that Pat Tillman had died. I was in my car on my way to work sitting at a red light listening to a sports talk radio station. They said they had just gotten word that Pat Tillman was killed in action. I just sat there and tears started streaming down my face.
    I’s kind of like do you remember where you were and what you were doing when JFK was assassinated. Both gone way to soon.
    So to all the service men and women out there, I Salute You.

  11. By LB on Apr 22, 2014 | Reply

    I’d rather have one Pat Tillman than 10 Karlos Dansbys.

  12. By tigon on Apr 22, 2014 | Reply

    Do you know?Pat Tillman’s death remembered 10 years later–>

  13. By Marlon Skrusinski on Apr 23, 2014 | Reply

    “…he could have signed an offer sheet with the Rams for five years and worth $9.6 million… …He came back to the Cardinals, for a one-year, $512,000 contract”.

    And then, I think about Dansby “wanting to stay here”.

  14. By Darren Urban on Apr 23, 2014 | Reply

    Marlon —

    RE: Dansby/Tillman

    Apples and oranges. Given the circumstances, 99 percent of players (and fans, for that matter), would have taken the Rams offer over the Cards in 2000. Tillman was a unique case.

  15. By Adones Flores on Apr 23, 2014 | Reply

    Such a great article about Tillman.

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