Pat Tillman died 11 years ago today.
It was a jarring result of a story that had already become legend. Tillman had joined the military in 2002 after shunning the Cardinals’ multi-million dollar offer, and he had made it through his first tour of the Middle East. He even visited the Cardinals on their road trip to Seattle late in the 2003 season, to talk to then-coach Dave McGinnis. But Tillman, who could have gotten out at that point, decided he was going to go back into the fighting one more time.
I remember getting the call from a local TV sports producer I knew, asking me if I had heard the news about Tillman. I had not. I was sitting in my kitchen with my wife and two young sons, it was around 7 a.m., and I didn’t quite know what to do. I came to the Cardinals’ facility — it was the day before the 2004 draft — and it was just hard. There were still plenty of players around who had played with Pat. Offensive lineman Pete Kendall came in to talk about Tillman the best he could. New coach Denny Green, who came after Tillman left, was around, but it was like he didn’t know quite what to do around all of us that had known Tillman.
I’ve written many times about Tillman and told my Tillman stories. It’s that time of year to think about them, with the anniversary and, Saturday, the annual Pat’s Run over at ASU, in which I will be participating for a 10th straight year. It’s the time to listen to this tribute the team put together right after Pat’s death, a moving piece that local radio stations still play to this day. It’s the time to remember a guy who embodied what sacrifice was — whether it was something as little as spending his own time to teach his eventual replacement the playbook or as big as fighting for our country and losing his life because of it.
Tags: Pat Tillman
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