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whether it’s playing sports or whether it’s just living or whatever you’re going to do. In my opinion you should be passionate about it or else, why do it?" - Pat Tillman
Pat Tillman was a born leader who pushed limits in all aspects of his life.
Throughout his youth, he was adventurous, inquisitive, and even then, driven to perform his best. His diligence and relentless curiosity were his trademark, along with a challenger mentality. He excelled in his athletic pursuits, but his talent went beyond the field.
A dedicated student, during his time at ASU Pat was awarded the Clyde B. Smith Academic Award in 1996 and 1997, and was named the Sporting News Honda Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 1997 and the Sun Angel Student Athlete of the Year in 1998. He earned a BS in marketing and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 3 ½ years. While playing for the Arizona Cardinals, he pursued a master’s degree in history from ASU. He continued to pursue knowledge throughout his life, reading voraciously and engaging in debate to develop and share new ideas.
At his high school in San Jose, California, Pat switched from playing baseball to football, despite his smaller size.
He excelled on the high school field, and his talent earned him a scholarship to play for the Sun Devils at ASU. He continued to excel in the sport at the university as a linebacker, leading the Sun Devils to the 1997 Rose Bowl after an undefeated season. He earned three consecutive selections to the Pac-10 All-Academic Football Team, a 1st team Academic All-American honor, and the NCAA’s Post-Graduate Scholarship for academic and athletic excellence.
The Arizona Cardinals selected him in the 7th round of the 1998 NFL Draft. Pat became the team’s starting safety and broke the franchise record for tackles in 2000 with 224. He remained loyal to his team throughout his professional football career, and turned down a contract with the St. Louis Rams in order to continue playing for the Cardinals, despite the financial benefits of the Rams’ offer.
In 2002, Pat walked away from a $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army.
On the evening of April 22, 2004, Pat’s unit was ambushed as it traveled through eastern Afghanistan, leading to his tragic and untimely death.
Following his death, his family and friends established the Pat Tillman Foundation. Created to honor Pat's legacy by inspiring others to create their own, the foundation invests in military veterans and their spouses through academic scholarships — building a diverse community of leaders committed to service to others.
To read more about Pat’s story, visit the Pat Tillman Foundation
*Content sourced from the Pat Tillman Foundation and Biography.com.
The life and legacy of Pat Tillman live on at Arizona State University. Click through this short photo gallery to see photos of Pat and tributes in his honor.
Read about how one student has connected with the spirit of Pat during his time at ASU.
Listen to this podcast, hosted by a student veteran, to learn more about Pat from the people who knew him best.