In the NFL, November is most known as Salute to Service month. Along with selling camo colored apparel, the NFL uses November as a time to honor many current and former members of the American military. The NFL has had a deep history with the military, having veterans such as Alejandro Villanueva and Roger Staubach play in the league. Every veteran is a courageous hero and that’s why each November, they are honored at special NFL games. This is also why people buy the NFL’s military-styled apparel. According to the NFL, 100% of the money spent on the salute to service apparel is donated to the military. This means that buying the NFL’s military apparel, allows people to show their support for the military and also show off their favorite team at the same time. Obviously the NFL has a good relationship with the military, however, this all wouldn’t be possible without a man who went by the name of Pat Tillman.
The Story of Pat Tillman…
Pat Tillman was born November 6, 1976, in California. Tillman was a standout football player in California and eventually earned himself a football scholarship to play for Arizona State University. Playing as a linebacker in college, Tillman was able to secure his team’s last scholarship, despite being listed at 5’11 which is undersized for his position.
Tillman was a workhorse, a guy who wouldn’t take no for an answer. In his freshman year, the ASU coach wanted Tillman to sit the season out, but Tillman refused since he wanted to graduate on time and he had other things to do in life. Many player’s thought they could take advantage of Tillman because of his height. Tillman however, made them think again about his aggressive style of play. In his junior year, ASU went undefeated and played in the Rose Bowl. Tillman was a key piece to that team and the next year, Tillman was voted Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year.
Along with excelling on the field, Tillman also excelled off it. Throughout his time at ASU, Tillman earned several academic awards and become known as a well-educated player. Most infamously, Tillman became known for climbing the light posts at Sun Devil Stadium, to reflect and meditate.
In 1998, Tillman entered the NFL draft and was selected with the 226th pick by the Arizona Cardinals. In his rookie year, Tillman made the shift from linebacker to safety. This allowed Tillman to start 10 games that season and prove himself as an NFL player.
At one point, Tillman was offered a large contract from the Rams, a team that was coming off a Super Bowl win, but instead, he decided to stay with the Cardinals because he was loyal to the team who drafted him. After three years in the league, Tillman was able to make a name for himself. Tillman was on the rise and it looked like he was poised for greatness. However, on September 11th, 2001, everything changed.
On this date, America experienced one of biggest terrorist attacks in its history, as four passengers filled planes were hijacked and flown into both the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Almost 3,000 people died this day, which angered Americans and caused many of them to a feel a call of action.
These emotions were not immune to Pat Tillman, which is why in May of 2002, Tillman turned down a 3.6 million dollar contract extension, to enlist in the US army with his brother. Tillman’s brother also turned down the chance to make millions, as during this time he was just recently drafted by the Cleveland Indians. The brothers decided to join the Army Rangers, one of the most elite forces in the MIlitary.
After completing all of his training in November of 2003, Tillman was deployed to Afghanistan. He was based at FOB Salerno, which was located near the city of Khost and nicknamed Rocket City because the base was constantly experiencing rocket and mortar attacks.
Unfortunately for Tillman, his time with the Rangers ran short, as, on April 22, 2004, Tillman was reportedly killed by friendly fire in the line of duty. Tillman received numerous awards for his bravery, including a Purple Heart and a Silver Star.
After Tillman’s death, many things were done to honor him. He was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame, the Arizona Cardinals preserved his locker, and both his college and NFL jersey number were retired. Most importantly though, the Pat Tillman Foundation was formed in his honor. Currently, the foundation is being run by his wife, Marie Tillman. This foundation is partnered with the NFL and is set up to allow educational opportunities for veterans and their families.
Pat Tillman was the ultimate hero, he gave up millions of dollars and stardom to protect the country he loved. He stepped up when America was at it’s the weakest point and for that, this country owes him a great debt, along with every other veteran that fought to protect this country. Without people like Pat Tillman, America would not be the same today.