Safety to give up NFL life for the Army
PHOENIX (May 23, 2002) --
Arizona Cardinals safety
Pat Tillman is giving
up the NFL for the Army.
Tillman said he is enlisting
in the Army for three years. Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis said Tillman,
a two-year starter at free safety, wants to go through boot camp and
join the elite Rangers program with his younger brother, Kevin, an infielder
who spent last year with the Cleveland Indians' organization.
"This is very serious
with Pat," McGinnis said. "It's very personal, and I honor that. I honor
the integrity of that. It was not a snap decision he woke up and made
yesterday. This has been an ongoing process, and he feels very strongly
Tillman, a California native
who was married two weeks ago and recently returned from a honeymoon
in Bora Bora, talked to Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill, McGinnis and defensive
coordinator Larry Marmie in separate interviews. He could not be reached
His agent, Frank Bauer, called
the decision consistent with his client's contemplative, nonmaterialistic
Tillman, an unrestricted
free agent, spurned a five-year offer sheet from the St.
Louis Rams in 2001 and allowed a multi-year deal with the Cardinals
to sit on the table this spring despite Bauer's urging to sign.
"This is very consistent
with how he conducts his life," Bauer said. "Patty is the type of guy
who is very smart and very loyal. I remember when the Rams made their
offer, he said, 'No, I want to stay with the Cardinals. If I have to
play for the minimum, I don't care.' He axed the offer sheet and played
another year. But he's always had a blueprint for what he wants to do.
Now everything else is on the back burner."
Tillman, 25, never tired
of football, but felt his hand was forced by the military's age restriction
on entry in special-forces units, Bauer said. The agent said Tillman
hopes to resume his NFL career when his enlistment is up.
Newlywed Marie Tillman supports
her husband's decision to leave one rugged profession for a more dangerous
one, Bauer said.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound
Tillman has always been distinguished by his appetite for rugged play
and intelligence. As an undersized linebacker at Arizona State, he was
the Pac-10's Defensive Player of the Year in 1997.
He warmed up for last year's
training camp by competing in a 70.2-mile triathlon in June, and finished
his fourth NFL year with 478 career tackles and three interceptions.
As a scholar, Tillman carried
a 3.84 grade point average through college and graduated summa cum laude
in 3½ academic years with a degree in marketing.
"The guy has got something
to him, and that's why I wanted him on the team all these years," McGinnis
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2002, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved
follows beat of a different drum
March 20, 2003)
-- Those who know Pat
Tillman know that he always has welcomed a challenge.
As a youth,
he high-dived from bridges and cliffs. At Arizona State, he hopped the
fence at Sun Devil Stadium and climbed a light tower. Before reporting
for training camp with the
Arizona Cardinals two years ago, he competed in a 70-mile triathlon.
Forrest Gump. He tries everything," says
Frank Sanders, his former teammate.
So no one
should have been surprised last spring when Tillman, entering his fourth
NFL season, shucked it all and joined his brother, Kevin, in
setting out to become an Army Ranger. What's a three-year, $3.6
million pro football contract when you can collect $18,000 a year from
Tillman gave up the glamour of the NFL to serve his country.
"Pat has very
deep and true convictions," Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis said at the
time. "He's a deep thinker, and believe me, this was something he thought
no public statement. He wasn't in this for the publicity. But you didn't
need to dig too deeply to find an explanation for his actions. Friends
said that the 9/11 terrorist attacks had affected him deeply. Cardinals
defensive coordinator Larry Marmie, after a conversation with his former
player, said Tillman felt he needed to "pay something back" for the
comfortable life he had been afforded.
rationale, he clearly was serious about his pursuit. He and Kevin completed
basic training in July and advanced through individual training in October.
They graduated from parachute school in November, and completed the
Ranger Indoctrination Program in December. Just that quickly, Tillman
was assigned to the second battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment in
Fort Lewis, Washington.
"He's a full-fledged
Ranger now," Army spokesperson Carol Darby reported. "He's ready for
combat. He will move with his unit for whatever that unit is involved
The 75th Ranger
Regiment was deployed recently, presumably to the Middle East. If the
description that the Army attaches to the unit ("flexible, highly trained,
and rapidly deployed light infantry force with specialized skills")
is any measure, the 75th likely will wind up in the middle of the most
You can be
sure that Tillman will be prepared for the challenge. He succeeds at
just about everything he sets out to do.
at Arizona State in 1994 on the school's last remaining football scholarship,
landing a spot on the end of the bench, where dreams go to expire. He
left four seasons later as the Pac-10 Conference Defensive Player of
He was selected
by the Cardinals with the 226th pick of the 1998 draft -- the league
packed up and went home after pick 241 -- and five months later, he
was Arizona's starting strong safety.
This is a
fellow who doesn't know the meaning of fail -- on the field, in the
classroom, or anywhere else. He had a 3.84 grade-point average at ASU
and graduated with a degree in marketing in 3½ years.
is nothing if not unusual. In college, he played linebacker, where he
was thought to be too small. In the NFL, he played safety, where he
was thought to be too slow. When he set a club record for tackles in
2000 and attracted the interest of another team, the St. Louis Rams,
he declined their five-year offer sheet out of loyalty to the club that
had drafted him.
hardly have been strangers to military service. Roger Staubach served
four years after graduating from the Naval Academy before joining the
Dallas Cowboys as a 27-year-old rookie in 1969. Rocky Bleier of the
Pittsburgh Steelers nearly lost a leg to a land mine when he did a tour
of duty in Vietnam.
But the list
of names grows a little shorter when it comes to NFL players who have
walked away from million-dollar contracts in the prime of their careers.
that comes to mind is one told by Bruce Snyder, Tillman's coach at Arizona
State. It seems that Snyder planned to redshirt Tillman as a freshman,
extending his eligibility by a season. Of course, that would necessitate
Tillman remaining in college for an extra year.
"You can do
whatever you want with me," Tillman said, "but in four years I'm gone.
I've got things to do with my life."
he still does.
Tillman killed in Afghanistan
(April 23, 2004) --
Pat Tillman walked away from millions in the NFL to fight for his
country in Afghanistan.
He paid with
Arizona Cardinals safety was killed Thursday night in a firefight while
on combat patrol with the Army Rangers in Afghanistan. He was 27.
from NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue
| "Pat Tillman personified
all the best values of his country and the NFL. He was an achiever
and leader on many levels who always put his team, his community,
and his country ahead of his personal interests. Like other
men and women protecting our freedom around the world, Pat made
the ultimate sacrifice and gave his life in the service of our
country. We are deeply saddened by his loss and, on behalf of
everyone in the NFL, we extend our heartfelt sympathy to the
"He is a hero,"
Cardinals vice president Michael Bidwill said. "He was a brave man.
There are very few people who have the courage to do what he did, the
courage to walk away from a professional sports career and make the
Lt. Col. Matt
Beevers, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Kabul, said a soldier
was killed by anti-coalition militia forces about 25 miles from a U.S.
military base at Khost, the site of frequent attacks.
official at the Pentagon confirmed it was Tillman, and the White House
praised him as "an inspiration both on and off the football field."
an overachiever as an athlete. Too slow to be a great safety, too small
for an NFL linebacker, he got by on toughness and effort.
undoubtedly served him well in the Army Rangers, the elite force he
joined in May 2002 after abandoning his career with the Cardinals. He
moved from a violent game to the reality of war.
personified all the best values of his country and the NFL," commissioner
Paul Tagliabue said. "He was an achiever and leader on many levels who
always put his team, his community, and his country ahead of his personal
Tillman was the first NFL player
killed in combat since Buffalo offensive tackle Bob Kalsu died in the
Vietnam War in July 1970. Nineteen NFL players were killed in World War
Tillman's best season was in 2000 when he started all 16 games
and had 224 tackles.
was a teammate of Tillman for seven years, three at Arizona State and
four with the Cardinals.
"We lost a
unique individual that touched the lives of many with his love for life,
his toughness, his intellect," Plummer said in a statement released
by the Broncos. "Pat Tillman lived life to the fullest and will be remembered
forever in my heart and mind."
Tillman was a long-haired wild man on the field, an All-Pac-10 linebacker
always going full speed. Bone-jarring hits were his trademark.
He and Plummer
led the Sun Devils to the 1997 Rose Bowl. The next season, Tillman was
the Pac-10 defensive player of the year. He graduated summa cum laude
in December 1997 with a marketing degree and a 3.84 grade-point average.
took Tillman in the seventh round of the 1998 draft, the 226th player
chosen. At first, he made his mark on special teams but played his way
into a starting spot at safety.
In 2000, he
broke the franchise record for tackles with 223. He had 12 solo tackles,
and a hand in 21 overall, in a 16-15 victory over Washington that season.
coaches often had to make Tillman slow down so he wouldn't hurt anybody
in drills that weren't supposed to be full speed. Slowing down was always
tough for him.
2000 season, he ran a marathon to see what it would be like. Before
the 2001 season, he gave the triathlon a try.
after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Tillman walked into the office
of then-coach Dave McGinnis, pulled up a chair and said, "Mac, we have
his brother Kevin -- a minor league baseball player in the Cleveland
organization -- were going to join the Army Rangers, soldiers sent where
the fighting is toughest.
was his wish that this not be something that would draw a lot
of attention," McGinnis said. "He truly felt committed and felt
a sense of honor and duty at this point in his life that this
is what he wanted to do." Tillman
never said a word publicly about his decision. When
he returned from his Middle East tour of duty, Tillman, his wife,
Marie, and brother Kevin joined the Cardinals for a game in Seattle
last December. They spent five hours in McGinnis' hotel room the
night before the game, talking.
"He was just so proud to be a member of the Rangers," McGinnis
said. "That came through loud and clear."
the team's pregame breakfast, then watched the game with Cardinals owner
Bill Bidwill and his son, Michael. Tillman talked with his teammates
in the locker room after the game, then slipped out a side door before
reporters came in.
turned down a more lucrative offer from the St. Louis Rams in
2001 to stay with the Cardinals. A year later, he walked away
from a three-year, $3.6 million offer from Arizona to join the
Phil Snow, now defensive coordinator at the University of Washington,
held the same position at Arizona State when the Sun Devils
recruited Tillman out of San Jose, Calif.
"Pat was a lot of things as a person," Snow said. "He was a
tough, good-looking guy. He was extremely competitive. You know
there is a saying with older people: 'He was a man's man.' You
always knew where you stood with Pat. There was no phoniness
Napolitano ordered flags on the Arizona State campus flown at half-staff.
His framed No. 40 jersey was displayed Friday on a table outside Cardinals
headquarters, alongside flowers and teddy bears. A pen was left for
people to write messages to the Tillman family.
person do you know who would give up a life in the NFL to defend what
he believes in with his own life?" said former teammate
David Barrett, now with the New York Jets. "That is a humble guy."
The Associated Press News Service
2004, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue
"Pat Tillman personified
all the best values of his country and the NFL. He was an achiever and
leader on many levels who always put his team, his community and his
country ahead of his personal interests. Like other men and women protecting
our freedom around the world, Pat made the ultimate sacrifice and gave
his life in the service of our country. We are deeply saddened by his
loss and, on behalf of everyone in the NFL, we extend our heartfelt
sympathy to the Tillman family."
Former Cardinals head coach
"This is a painful day for
the Tillman family and my condolences go out to them. I have known Pat
since 1998 and I don't know if I have ever met a more dedicated person
in my lifetime. He represented all that was good in sports, bringing
passion, honor, integrity and dignity to the game.
"Pat knew his purpose in
life. He proudly walked away from a career in football to a greater
calling, which was to protect and defend our country. Pat represents
those who have and will make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
I am overwhelmed with a sense of sorrow, but I also feel a tremendous
feeling of pride for him and his service.
"He was not the first and
won't be the last to give his life for his country. He always shunned
the limelight and I am sure he would want that continued, but his life
deserves to be celebrated and for his story to be told. He and the people
he served with are what make this country such a special place. It was
an honor to be his friend and coach and I will miss him."
Former Cardinals and current
Seahawks GM Bob Ferguson
"Pat represents all that
is good with this country, our society and ultimately the human condition
in general. In today's world of instant gratification and selfishness,
here is a man that was defined by words like loyalty, honor, passion,
courage, strength and nobility. He is a modern-day hero. As much as
I loved him, we need to recognize that this is just one story, one man,
one sacrifice of many. I want to thank Pat, his family and all the men
and women and their families who have sacrificed their lives for the
rest of us."
Arizona senator John McCain
"I am heartbroken today
by the news of Pat Tillman's death. The tragic loss of this extraordinary
young man will seem a heavy blow to our nation's morale, as it is surely
a grievous injury to his loved ones. Many American families have suffered
the same terrible sacrifice that Pat's family must now bear, and the
patriotism that their loved ones' exemplified is as fine and compelling
as Pat's. But there is in Pat Tillman's example, in his unexpected choice
of duty to his country over the riches and other comforts of celebrity,
and in his humility, such an inspiration to all of us to reclaim the
essential public-spiritedness of Americans that many of us, in low moments,
had worried was no longer our common distinguishing trait.
"When Pat made his choice
to leave the NFL and became an Army Ranger, he declined requests for
interviews because he viewed his decision as no more patriotic than
that of his less-fortunate, less-renowned countrymen who loved our country
enough to volunteer to defend her in a time of peril. It is that first
lesson of patriotism that we should reaffirm in our own lives as we
celebrate the courageous life and mourn the heroic death of this most
Former Cardinals and current
Jets CB David Barrett
"It is a tragedy that it
had to happen to one of the finer guys in life. What other person do
you know would give up a life in the NFL to defend what he believes
in with his own life? That is a humble guy. It's so sad that things
like this happen to anyone, and especially a great guy like Pat. My
condolences go out to his family."