For those who do not know, Pat Tillman was inspirational on so many different levels.
First he was told he was too small to play in the NFL. The Cardinals drafted him out of Arizona State as a favorite son. The Cardinals have long been one of the worst franchises in all of professional sports. He was not even deemed good enough to start for them. With determination and grit, he cracked the starting lineup and outplayed players that were bigger than he was. Football is not just brawn. It involves smarts, and Tillman possessed smarts in abundance.
His second admirable trait was loyalty to his football team. He was offered a 5 year, 9 million dollar contract from the St. Louis Rams. At the time they were the best team in football. The offer was a 50% raise over what the Cardinals were offering. He turned down significantly more money from the best team in the league to stay with the worst team in the league. He felt a loyalty towards the only team willing to take a chance on him when he first came out of college. He wanted to help build them into winners.
Yet while the Cardinals lost many football games, Pat Tillman never lost perspective. On September 11th, 2001, many people had their perspective on everything life change. Pat Tillman, like many Americans, wanted to do more. He needed to do more. Playing football for the Cardinals was not enough.
His third and most admirable quality was a patriotism that ran so deep that most people cannot fathom what was inside of him. He turned down a 3 year, 3.6 million dollar offer from the Cardinals to take an $18,000 a year position as an Army Ranger. To be more specific, he was a Green Beret. He was deployed to Iraq, and then to Afghanistan.
He promised Dave McGinnis, the coach of the Cardinals at the time, that in 3 years he would be back in the NFL. McGinnis promised Tillman that upon his return, there would be a roster spot waiting for him on whatever team McGinnis was coaching.
That opportunity never came. Pat Tillman never came home. He was killed in Afghanistan.
Some will try to tarnish his legacy by daring to mention that because his death was the result of friendly fire, his life was any less heroic. That is a line of thought that no decent person should go near.
Some may want to criticize the Army for initially refusing to reveal the circumstances that resulted in his death. That has nothing to do with Pat Tillman. Many people say that they opposed certain missions, but honor and support the troops.
Then honor Pat Tillman. Do not let feelings regarding the mission, or the military, or the government that gave the orders (all of which I still staunchly support) affect the fact that Tillman gave his life for the country he loved. A finer quality does not exist.