Pat Tillman: The Safety On The Football Field Who Fought For American Safety On The Battlefield.

In honor of the the Fourth of July, we at 6048 would like to recognize that our freedom to watch and enjoy sports isn’t free. It comes with a cost. So, in honor of this day representing freedom, we would like to thank all who have served in the U.S. military, including Pat Tillman who was both a football star and an American hero — making the most ultimate sacrifice.

Pat Tillman’s football career dates back to when he was in high school. In his freshman year at Leland high school, Tillman played baseball as a catcher but did not make the varsity team. This gave him more interest to put a primary focus in football — which was what he ended up doing his sophomore year of high school. He lead his school to a Central Coast Division I Football Championship.

In 1994, Pat was noticed by Arizona State University and went to school there on an athletic scholarship. Despite his size (5’11”) they decided to put him at the linebacker position, in which he excelled. During his junior season, Tillman helped the Sun Devils to an undefeated season and a Rose Bowl appearance. In 1997, Tillman was voted the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and ASU’s MVP. He did all of this while maintaining a 3.85 GPA.

It was pretty hard not to see his overwhelming number of accolades in the 1998 NFL Draft. And who better to draft the local, hometown hero? The Arizona Cardinals.

Pat Tillman was selected as the 226th pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. In spite of being picked so late, he still started 10 out of the 16 games his rookie season, this time at the safety position. Around this part of his career, Pat Tillman turned down a 5-year, $9 million offer from the St. Louis Rams, choosing to stay with the Cardinals — displaying untouchable loyalty.

Sports Illustrated sportswriter, Paul Zimmerman, also known as “Doctor Z”, put Tillman in his NFL All-Pro team in 2000. Pat Tillman’s stats were pretty impressive considering that he had only been in the league for one year: Having 155 tackles (120 of which were solo), 9 deflected passes, 1.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and an interception that he brought back for 30 yards.

Tillman finished his 60-game (4 season) career with 340 combined tackles (247 of them being solo tackles), 3 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, and 2.5 sacks (which as a safety is pretty impressive considering he was in the backfield most of the time).

Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Pat Tillman turned down an offer from the Cardinals that was for 3 years and entailed $3.6 million (more than double his annual salary of $512,000 a year) to enlist in the United States Army.

There he served his country proudly, but heartbreakingly was killed in the line of fire.

The tragic death of Pat Tillman was followed by many prestigious football recognitions and awards, on top of his many military medals, including: an induction into the College Football and Arizona Sports Hall of Fame, his number (42) being retired at Arizona State University, his other number being retired with the Cardinals (40), as well as being inducted into the Cardinals Ring of Fame. These awards alone are incredibly impressive for a player that only played four seasons in the NFL. Tillman’s legacy continues to live on…

It is important to remember the story of Pat and others who have fought for the U.S. on the Fourth of July, because without them we might not be able to have the freedom to enjoy the 60 minutes on the football field and the 48 minutes on the basketball court.

My Sources:

“Pat Tillman”.
Carson, Cunningham (2017). Fallen Stars: Five American Athletes Who Died in Military Service. Texas A&M University Press. p. 179. ISBN978-1623495602.
“Ex-NFL star Tillman makes ‘ultimate sacrifice'”. MSNBC. January 26, 2003
Matthew B. Stannard (March 27, 2007). “In football and in life, Tillman was determined, independent”. San Francisco Chronicle.