From NFL Star to American Hero Many people dream of playing a professional sport, but not many people would give up that dream to go into the military. Pat Tillman was a football star from Arizona State University and later the Arizona Cardinals. In 2002, Tillman put his NFL career on hold and enlisted in the U. S. Army to become an ranger along with his brother. With this choice, Tillman received a lot of attention from the media, but was humble and did not want to make it a big story.
When his coach, Dave McGinnis, from the Arizona Cardinals was asked he answered, “Pat knew his purpose in life. Tillman proudly walked away from a career in football to a greater calling” (“Pat Tillman Foundation”). Through his selflessness, determination, and humbleness, Pat Tillman went from being a NFL star to a respected Army Ranger to finally after his tragic death one of the America’s greatest heroes. Pat Tillman showed great determination throughout many experiences in his life. One is undeniable, his determination to become one of the best football players that he could be.
After being told in high school that he was too little to ever play football, Tillman worked hard and through determination became a huge part of his high school football team and later earned a scholarship to Arizona State University. In college, it was said that what Tillman lacked in size and physical ability he made up and exceeded with intensity (“Pat Tillman Foundation”). Pat worked hard in the offseason trying to keep his mind and body moving in the right direction so he could secure his spot when the football season started.
His determination and hard work paid off when he got a starting spot as a safety for the Arizona Cardinals (Tillman 39). Although a large amount of determination went into football, Tillman’s determination went far beyond the field. In school, Tillman also showed a great deal of determination. He loved to read and learn about anything he could. Some even described him as some sort of Socrates or Ralph Waldo Emerson. At Arizona State University, Tillman told people that even though he was playing a sport he would graduate with excellent grades. Tillman upheld this promise and graduated in three years with a degree in marketing and a 3. grade-point average (Freeman).
With this kind of determination, Pat Tillman’s professors and coaches had high regard and admiration towards him. “You don’t find guys that have that combination of being as bright and as tough as him,” Tillman’s Arizona State head coach said (“Pat Tillman Foundation”). While school and knowledge were very important to Tillman, his selflessness told him he had a greater calling. Tillman showed his selflessness in many ways throughout his life. One of the more recognizable acts was when he denied a $3. 6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals and went to enlist in the Army (Lacayo).
After the September 11 attacks Tillman was compelled to go and enlist. In an interview, he says, “At times like this you stop and think about just how good we have it, what kind of system we live in, and the freedoms we are allowed. A lot of my family has gone and fought in wars and I really haven’t done a damn thing. ” Tillman was very passionate in anything he did and strongly believed that anything he did he was going to give everything he had (Tillman 77). When his defensive coach from the Arizona Cardinals, Dave McGinnis, was asked about Pat, he confirmed Tillman’s attitude of give everything or do not do it at all.
He said, “We used to have to gear him down sometimes in practice. He only knew one speed. ” So it was no surprise that Tillman gave up his football career for what he believed was what he should actually be doing (Carter). Tillman kept showing his selflessness even after he was serving in active duty. Another example of how Pat Tillman displayed selflessness, was in his tragic death. Their convoy had split up on a routine patrol when one of their vehicles broke down. When the platoon that was told to take the broken down vehicle back got ambushed by the Taliban, Tillman’s platoon went to give cover fire (“Pat Tillman”).
Regarding his own safety along with three other soldiers, one an afghan soldier and two other fellow Army Rangers, Tillman and the three other men started up a ridge to get in position to cover men below from what was thought to be enemy fire. Tillman and the other men were drawing fire from the opposite side, but what they soon found out was that they were taking friendly fire from what was the other platoon. Tillman apparently sent out smoke signals and the men yelled cease fire, but it was all too late when he was hit in the chest and then three times in the head.
The story of his real death was hidden or covered up for sometime, but one thing remained the same, Tillman did go up the ridge to provide cover fire for his men without thinking twice about himself (“What Really Happened To Pat Tillman? “). Even though Pat Tillman showed characteristics of a hero including his determination and selflessness, he was very humble about all of his accomplishments. Pat Tillman was an athletic, adventurous, and very outgoing man, but he was also very humble.
He did not brag about his athletic career, but rather saw himself just like everybody else, a regular human being just trying to make a living. He once said, “Sports embodied many of the qualities I deem meaningful. However, these last few years, and especially after recent events, I’ve come to appreciate just how shallow and insignificant my role is… It’s no longer important” (“Pat Tillman”). He was not trying to be a big shot. He even turned down an average $1. 8 million a year with the St. Louis Rams to stay home with the Arizona Cardinals for $512,000 (Freeman).
He even still drove the same beat up truck to the stadium and lived in simple house with simple furniture. He was just like everybody else (Tillman 57). With Tillman being such a high profile athlete, his simple, humble life was hard to keep because the media thrived on making his story a publicity stunt and used as propaganda when he moved from the NFL to the military. Tillman wanted to keep his move from the NFL to the military out from the media as much as possible. He was trying to be humble in that he did not want this situation to become a publicity stunt like the media would try to make it be.
In the beginning, since he had a college degree he was offered a chance to go through officer training instead of starting out at private and going through the Ranger program. He denied the opportunity and said he wanted to start from the bottom just like everybody else (Freeman). Before he died, Tillman had told some of his fellow Rangers that he feared if he died or something happened to him it would be used as propaganda. He wanted to die honorably if he did and he did not want to be used as propaganda or get any more attention than any other soldier did (“What Really Happened To Pat Tillman? ).
Pat Tillman showed humility even though the media tried to stretch his story. Pat Tillman will forever be known as one of America’s greatest heroes by his selflessness, determination, and humbleness. Tillman did what not many people would do. He had a dream job and was making millions, but somehow gave it all up to go protect his country. “Pat’s best service to his country was to remind us all what courage really looks like,” Arizona Senator John McCain told the crowd, “and that the purpose of all good courage is love” (Carter).