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March 7, 2017 > Pat Tillman, Fremont success story

Pat Tillman, Fremont success story

Submitted By Steve Michel

Pat Tillman was born in Fremont on November 6th 1976 and grew up in the Willow Glen section of San Jose. He attended public schools including Leland High School from 1990-1994. Tillman became one of the greatest football players in school history. He played linebacker at 5 feet 10 inches tall and 180 pounds; small, even by high school standards. Tillman made up for his size with quickness, intelligence and hitting players on the opposing offense harder than any other defensive player in school history. Tillman led Leland High School to a Central Coast Division 1 Football Championship his senior year. The school would later name their football field Pat Tillman field in his honor.

After graduating from Leland in 1994, Tillman accepted a full football scholarship to Arizona State University where he excelled both on the football field and in the classroom. He majored in Marketing and held a 3.85 GPA. Playing linebacker for the Sun Devils, he led his team to an undefeated season and a Rose Bowl berth in Pasadena. Tillman was named Pac Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 1997. He was also named Sporting News Honda Scholar Athlete of the Year in 1997. Tillman was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

After graduating from college in three and a half years, Tillman was selected in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals (226th overall pick). He was switched from linebacker to free safety by the Cardinal coaching staff. Tillman played well his rookie year starting 10 of 16 games and also excelling on special teams for the Cardinals. His second season in 1999, he played well again excelling on special teams as well as at his free safety position.

Tillman had a breakout season in 2000 making 155 tackles (130 solo tackles) two forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks, nine pass deflections and one interception returned for 30 yards. Sports Illustrated football writer Paul Zimmerman named Tillman to his 2000 NFL All-Pro Team. After his All-Pro season, Tillman turned down a five year, nine million dollar contract from the St. Louis Rams out of loyalty to the Cardinals. He was making $500,000 at the time of the Rams offer. Tillman would later turn down millions of dollars from the Cardinals as well.

After the terrorist attacks on New York City on September 11th 2001 Tillman felt it was his duty to serve and defend his country so he retired from professional football after playing only four years. He and his brother Kevin Tillman enlisted in the United States Army on May 31, 2002. Kevin was playing professional baseball and gave up a chance to advance to the Major Leagues with the Cleveland Indians.

After the Tillman brothers completed basic training and the Ranger Indoctrination training program in late 2002, they were deployed to Iraq as part of the initial invasion of Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom. After returning to the states the Tillman brothers entered Army Ranger school in September of 2003 at Fort Benning Georgia. They graduated in November of 2003. Pat and Kevin Tillman then served several more tours of combat duty.

Pat and Kevin Tillman were redeployed to Afghanistan and based at Forward Operating Base Salerno. In April of 2004 Pat TillmanÕs unit became engaged in a firefight with the enemy in the mountains of Afghanistan. Pat Tillman was shot and killed by friendly fire on April 22, 2004.

Pat Tillman was the first National Football League player killed in combat duty since Bob Kalsu of the Buffalo Bills was killed in the Vietnam War in 1970. Kevin Tillman was not injured in the firefight and was sent home to the United States as is Army policy making sure the family will not have to deal with another death in the family. Pat Tillman was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart Medals.

Pat Tillman received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award from sports network ESPN in 2003. Pat Tillmans #42 jersey was retired by the Arizona Cardinals. Tillman was also elected to the Cardinals Ring of Fame. Patrick Daniel Tillman is survived by his parents Mary and Richard, brothers Kevin and Richard and his wife Marie Ugenti Tillman. Pat Tillman should be remembered as an outstanding pro football player and also as a man of great courage and conviction and as a selfless American War Hero.

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