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Remembering Pat Tillman: A True American Hero

Posted on November 06, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Pat Tillman would have turned 35 on November 6th.

As we prepare for Veterans Day later this week, we remember an American hero and former NFL star who would have turned 35-years-old today, Pat Tillman.

Too often in the world of sports we want to label someone as a hero or glowingly talk about the personal sacrifices they have made for their team or sport.

There are not enough glowing words to accurately describe the personal and professional sacrifice that Pat Tillman made for his country and for all of us who enjoy the wonderful freedoms associated with living in this great land.

Though only 5-foot-11 and slightly over 200 pounds, Tillman earned a college football scholarship to play at Arizona State University. As a junior, he was part of a Sun Devils squad that went undefeated in the regular season before losing 20-17 to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. The next season, Tillman was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year as Arizona State went 9-3 and won the Sun Bowl.

Despite his college credentials, Tillman wasn’t chosen in the 1998 NFL draft until the final round (seventh round) when the Arizona Cardinals made him the 226th pick in the draft.

After playing linebacker in college, Tillman was moved to defensive back in the NFL and started 10 games as a rookie while helping the Cardinals reach the second round of the NFC Playoffs.

Over the next three seasons, Tillman established himself as a defensive standout for the Cardinals, including ranking second on the team in tackles with 145 during the 2000 season.

Tillman spent four seasons as a defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals.

When our nation was attacked on September 11, 2001 it impacted everyone in our country in some manner. But Tillman was one of a small number of people who then acted to do something about it.

Following the 2001 season, Tillman turned down a three-year, $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals and instead, he and his brother Kevin, an aspiring baseball player, enlisted in the Army in May 2002.

Rather than participating in NFL training camp, Tillman spent the summer of 2002 going through Army basic training and then later that year he, along with Kevin, completed the Ranger Indoctrination Program.

Tillman participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom in the spring of 2003 and then later that year completed Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

He was soon deployed to Afghanistan and on April 22, 2004 was killed during a friendly fire incident.

At first, the circumstances of Tillman’s death were clouded in misinformation with it originally reported that he died during an enemy attack. Eventually, an investigation determined that the death of Tillman and an Afghan Militia Forces soldier occurred from a friendly fire incident.

The controversy surrounding his death did little to change the reality that Tillman made the ultimate sacrifice for his country and is a true American hero.

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