This is an editorial by Mike Slifer of Devils in Detail
Today is Memorial Day. It’s a day to commemorate those service members who have fallen in combat. For ASU fans, there is no one that embodied the spirit of patriotism more so than Pat Tillman.
Tillman played football for ASU from 1993-1997. He was not widely recruited out of high school. Tillman was a good athlete and played with a hard-nosed style. However, no one expected him to do much in college. Yet he won numerous honors as an outside linebacker/safety for ASU. He was a big part of that Rose Bowl Team in the 1996 season.
After his college career, he played for the Arizona Cardinals. Once again, he was not really expected to make the Cardinals roster. Not only did he make the team, he ended up cracking the starting lineup for three seasons.
In the fall of 2001, he decided to give up football to join the Army with his brother. He asked for, and was given one of the toughest assignments our military has to offer; the Rangers. As a military man myself, I can vouch for how difficult Ranger school is. It has a more than 50% washout rate. Even more, once you graduate from Ranger school, the lifestyle of soldiers in a Ranger Battalion is quite grueling.
But Tillman took it all in stride and became combat qualified in no time. Tillman was killed in 2004 in a controversial firefight with insurgents. The Army has admitted that his death was caused by a “blue on blue” incident. (friendly fire) This does not diminish his efforts as a soldier. As any combat vet will tell you, combat is a dangerous and confusing endeavor.
I have two personal stories about Pat Tillman. Once, as a student taking a summer course in Tempe, I walked by and saw him laying under a tree reading a book. No big deal. I came out of that building about four hours later only to see that Pat Tillman was still there reading the same book in the sweltering heat. I’d be willing to bet that he had made up his mind that he was going to read that book from cover to cover and not leave until he had done so. Unbelievable.
The other time I ran into him was at a Cardinals practice. It was his second year. He was a lock to make the team. A bunch of us high school coaches were in attendance. We watched him participate in a coverage drill. Tillman jumped an “out route” and dove for the interception by the sideline right at our feet. He came about six inches from diving head first into the water machine, which was made of metal. It would have crippled him. He either had no idea it was there, or just didn’t care. My guess is that he just didn’t care. He was going to get that ball wherever it went.
There are a thousand stories like that about Pat Tillman. Devils in Detail asks you to share yours with loved ones as you honor ALL of America’s heroes that have sacrificed everything so that regular citizens can go about their lives as they choose.