Spirit of Pat Tillman lives on

"He'd understand it, and he'd respect it," Tammaro said, "because it's helping a lot of people out."

During his football career, Tillman always cooperated with the media. But Staat said he and Tillman never liked talking about themselves. In college, Tillman's media responsibilities were minor compared with those in the NFL.

"Dude, they're everywhere," Tillman told Tammaro during his rookie season with Arizona.

By the time Tillman enlisted in the Army in 2002, after four years in the NFL, he understood how the media worked. Still, he decided not to talk to any of them about his decision to enlist.

Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis asked Tillman how he was going to announce leaving the NFL for the service. Tillman's reply, according to Tammaro: "I'm not. You are."

Tillman didn't want to talk about it, not even to his hometown paper. It wasn't about him, he'd tell people. He wouldn't let ASU use a military photo in its media guide. The last time Bidwill saw Tillman was on Dec. 21, 2003, when the Cardinals played at Seattle. He invited Pat, Marie and some friends to sit in his suite during the game. Afterward, Tillman went to the locker room to visit former teammates. They sneaked him in and out before the media were allowed in.

Even after his first stint in the Middle East, he wanted to remain quiet. "Nobody saw Pat Tillman," Tammaro said. "It was like a ghost. He was like some mythological person who went to the Army and no one saw him."


Tillman has been honored countless times since he was killed in a friendly fire accident in the mountains of Afghanistan.

His jersey number is emblazoned on the necklines of Sun Devils football players. He's in the Cardinals' ring of honor. He's eternalized in a statue in front of University of Phoenix Stadium. He even has a sandwich -- roast beef, mozzarella sticks and mushrooms -- at a sandwich shop that started in the Bay Area (Tillman is from San Jose, Calif.) and recently opened a store in Arizona. Despite all the sports connections, though, to those who knew him, Tillman was never your typical jock.

He was well-read, took his education seriously and was fiercely loyal to his family and friends. He had a dry sense of humor and was stubborn.

Tillman wasn't going to let others dictate his path. He had to figure it out on his own. There are stories about him scaling a light tower above Sun Devil Stadium to read or hanging upside-down from a tree to see what it's like to be a monkey.

Tillman would do handstands in the middle of a party, said childhood friend Bob Vossoughi. Tillman once jumped from a second-story balcony to a palm tree and slid down instead of using the stairs, Staat said. Tillman would go to Sedona, Ariz., and, while everyone hiked, he'd try to skip rocks across the length of the stream without getting his feet wet, Edinger remembered. During two-a-days in college, he'd hike a mountain or cliff dive in between practices.

He also read the Quran, the Bible and the Book of Mormon in college, Bidwill remembered. Tillman showed up for conditioning with The Wall Street Journal under his arm.

Understanding the world and how it worked was important to him.

"Pat always had something other than football," Edinger said. "He could talk religion; he could talk business; he could talk history. I didn't join because I didn't want to make an ass of myself.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Year In Pictures
Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images
PHOTO: James Franco and Seth Rogen in The Interview.
Ed Araquel/Sony/Columbia Pictures/AP Photo
PHOTO: Patrick Crawford is pictured in this photo from his Facebook page.
Meteorologist Patrick Crawford KCEN/Facebook
PHOTO: George Stinney Jr., the youngest person ever executed in South Carolina, in 1944, is seen in this undated file photo.
South Carolina Department of Archives and History/AP Photo