Pat Tillman lived as a unique and special warrior. The Army Ranger Specialist died that way in Afghanistan. Now, 11 years later, his legacy lives on in a unique and special way. It’s now reached epic status.
Today, an estimated 3,000 men, women, and children took part in the 11th Annual Pat’s Run to benefit the Pat Tillman Foundation. The event draws participants from all 50 states who do a 4.2 mile run (or walk) through the streets of the Arizona State University campus in Tempe, Arizona. They experience a powerful finish on the 42-yard line of the football field at Sun Devil Stadium. It’s an emotional tribute to Pat Tillman who wore jersey number 42 when he starred for the Devils in the 1990s.
A star football player, Pat Tillman was voted “Most Masculine” at Leland High in Northern California. Viewed as gritty but small, he was snubbed by most college recruiters. He got the last available scholarship at ASU in 1994. As a junior, he starred on the undefeated Sun Devils team which went to the Rose Bowl. In 1997, he was named PAC-10 Defensive Player of the Year, graduating with a 3.8 GPA.
The NFL snubbed but couldn’t stop Pat Tillman.
He was the 226th player taken in the 1998 NFL Draft. He made the Arizona Cardinals team, but didn’t get big money at first. During his early NFL days, he drove a beat up old pickup truck. He made sure he had money to buy a house with his best friend and high school sweetheart, Marie. He became an NFL star wearing number 40, while also enrolled in grad school to study history.
Pat Tillman Made History
In 2001, Pat turned down a bigger contract offer to stay loyal to the Arizona Cardinals coaches who gave him a chance. The September 11th attacks impacted him greatly. He walked away from a three-year, $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals to join the Army Rangers. His brother Kevin was right alongside of him every step of the way.
In 2002, Pat and Marie Tillman married before he left for basic training. He battled in Iraq, then in Afghanistan. On April 22, 2004, 27-year old Pat Tillman was killed in action in Southeast Afghanistan.
The Tillman family fought to uncover the truth of his death. The U.S. Army later revealed he was the victim of friendly-fire, fratricide. The eyes and hearts of Americans saw investigations pointed to an ugly Army cover-up. Pat Tillman’s hero status was built even stronger.
The Pat Tillman Foundation
In 2004, the Pat Tillman Foundation was formed. It gave a target for the nationwide outpouring of interest and support in Pat’s life and death. Pat’s Run is the biggest fundraiser for the organization which focuses on dedication, leadership, and continued service.
Since 2008, the Tillman Military Scholars program will have helped put 347 veterans or their spouses through school. Another 60 will be added to the list in 2015. Overall, the Pat Tillman Foundation has invested more than $10 million in academic support for deserving students at 98 different universities.
AWC is proud to have had a couple of our team members serve as volunteers at the 11th Annual Pat’s Run. While memories of 9-11 have faded across much of our nation, the Pat Tillman legacy continues to grow.
Even in death, he continues to serve his country. Proof that Pat Tillman was a unique and special warrior indeed.