Many people might not recognize the name Pat Tillman, but they should. Today, sports are filled with whiney, overpriced athletes, whose feats of athleticism are called into question every other day. Pat Tillman sounds to me like a regular guy, but he is more than that. He's a true patriot. Would you turn down 3.6 million dollars to fight for your country?
Tillman was always driven. When his coach at Arizona State told him that he would most likely be red-shirted for a season, Tillman told his coach that no matter what, he'd be out of school in four years. That meant no sticking around for the "extra" season. Tillman's mentality continued after his collegiate years. Before reporting to the 2001 training camp for the Arizona Cardinals, Tillman completed a 70 mile triathalon. More than that, Pat's head has always been in the right place. In 2001 he declined a 5 year contract worth $9 million from the St. Louis Rams, just because he wanted to run out his original contract with the team that drafted him.
Then it happened. September 11, 2001 affected everyone in a large variety of ways. For Tillman, it was a wakeup call. In less than a year, on May 23, 2002, Pat Tillman surprised the American populace and announced he was giving up the rest of his contract, three more years worth $3.6 million. He was joining his brother, Kevin, who himself was a prospect in the Cleveland Indians' farm system, to join the Army Rangers. Pat Tillman had married just two weeks prior to this announcement. A day before the announcement, Tillman told Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell of his decision, same with the coaching staff.
When Pat Tillman signed up for the army he asked for no media presence. He didn't want any special treatment or extra publicity. This was not an attempt at 15 minutes of fame, this was what he wanted. He agreed to join the rangers (if found fit) for three years. He planned to rejoin the NFL after that time. Tillman successfully fulfilled all the requirements to join this elite team. In December of 2002, Pat Tillman became an Army Ranger.
Pat Tillman would not get the chance to return to the NFL. He was first sent to Iraq, in March of 2003. His unit was later moved to the campaign in place in Afghanistan. The lands of Afghanistan would be the last he would see. On April 23, 2004, it was announced that Tillman was killed in the line of duty. He was 27 years old.
Tillman's story is one we should remember for a long time. Here's a man who graduated with a 3.84, summa cum laude, in 3.5 years from a respectable college. Here's a man who worked in one of the hardest professions, and here's a man who gave it all up for his patriotic duty. Ever since the 1700's, Americans have been finding ways of removing themselves from different wars. Draft dodging, sending slaves in their stead, etc. Pat Tillman took it on himself to go and do the dirty work, when he never needed to. And I respect that.
Here's to you, Pat Tillman. A man among men, and a true patriot.
and http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4815441/, which is the first article I saw about his death.