Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pat Tillman. My Small Story.

Today, Tuesday April 22nd 2014, marks the 10 Year Anniversary of the death of former ASU linebacker/Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman.  Most people remember Pat the football player and a guy who spoke his mind, which may be the biggest thing I admire about him.  Others remember Pat Tillman the Army Ranger.  You don't see celebrities/athletes give up a big money contract to do something he thought was the right thing to do: fight for your country.  I've had discussions with friends on if Pat had the ability to be a Hall of Famer, or go down as one of the best football players of all time.  At ASU, absolutely, the guy was a machine.  He was always around the football.  In the pros, probably not, but he made sure he was around the football whenever he could.  Which brings me to my story about Pat.  Unlike others, I didn't have a lot of chances to talk to Pat and get to know him.  Once a week I went out to the Cardinals practice facility in Tempe to get weekly preview audio for work.  Through a mutual friend I got to know quarterback Chris Greisen, who's a good guy.  While shooting the bull one day with Chris, Pat sat down at his locker to eat some lunch.

For those of you who remember this moment, this talk I was about to have with Pat was the week after kicker Billy Gramatica tore his ACL by celebrating an extra point.  At that time, punter Scott Player had a hamstring injury so he couldn't kick.  Coach Mac was wondering who he had to kick and of course, Pat says he would do it.  He kicked off a couple of times and did pretty good.  So, when Pat was done eating I went over to him and this was our conversation.

Me: "Ready to kick again this week Pat."
Pat: (smiling) "Do you see those guys out there the team brought in to kick this week."
Me: (laughing) "Yeah, I thought they brought them in to motivate you to kick better this week."
Pat: (still smiling) 'Yeah, that's it"
Me: "it looked like you had a blast though."
Pat: "Oh man I did, it's probably the most fun I've had playing football since high school."
Me: "Oh really?  It beats playing in the Rose Bowl or now on Sunday's"
Pat: "Absolutely.  Don't get me wrong all of those are great memories, but dammit, that was a blast on Sunday."
(Quarterback Jake Plummer comes into the locker room after working out, claiming he had the biggest arms in the locker room.)
Pat: "Jake, stop being a dumbass.  You've been doing it for years."
(the locker room laughs, Jake just keeps walking."

I thanked Pat for talking with me and wished him luck.  He said "thanks man, good talking to you."

At that time, it was cool because as an ASU fan I just talked to one of the key guys who dominated in 1996 and 97 and a guy I admired a great deal then.  Ever since he died, I think of that moment a lot and I think how lucky I was to have that conversation, as goofy and meaningless it really was.  I'm happy I have that memory of Pat and the legacy he leaves behind.  He was a great man, a great leader and a damn good football player.



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