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Pat Tillman, Arizona State University

The more you hear a story, the less impactful it becomes. It's simply human nature. Familiarity has a desensitizing effect.

That is, except in the case of Pat Tillman.

It all began when Tillman became a Sun Devil back in 1994.  On his very first play he registered a sack, foreshadowing the impact the young man would soon have on the program.

He improved throughout the 1995 season but truly blossomed the following year. With his trademark long blonde hair flowing from under his helmet, he became a dynamic playmaker with his ferocious and reckless style as a standout linebacker for a Sun Devil team that won the Pac-10 Conference title and played in the Rose Bowl.   After earning second-team All-Pac 10 honors that year, Tillman was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 1997.

Yet for all of his tremendous on-field prowess, he was just as remarkable without his helmet and pads.  He was a two-time Academic All-Pac-10 selection and graduated in just three and a half years with a 3.84 GPA. 

Tillman was also a natural leader, who would not let drills in practice end until they had been done to perfection.  His work ethic and charisma set an example that made those around him aspire to be better, both on and off the football field.

In 1998, he was a seventh-round draft choice by the Arizona Cardinals and played four seasons for them.  However, after the attack of September 11th he spurned a multi-million dollar contract from the team to join the Army Rangers alongside his brother Kevin.

He refused the media attention that the story generated, as his sense of duty, honor and service to his country were the only things that mattered.  Shortly after his deployment to Afghanistan, Tillman was tragically killed in action by friendly fire on April 22, 2004.

The impact of his patriotic and noble sacrifice for his country and convictions not only live on today , but continue to grow.

The Pat Tillman Foundation was established by his friends and family as a way to carry on and honor the legacy of one of America's best, and spread his example to others.  Since 2004, they have raised millions of dollars to "invest in veterans and their families through scholarship and community" service. The Sun Devil football team retired his jersey number 42 and permanently added "PT 42" patch on the collars of their jerseys.

It speaks to the truly remarkable nature of the man that over seven years after his death, his impact continues to expand.  The standards of excellence, leadership and community that he lived by continue to touch and inspire people not just in Arizona, but worldwide.  While he himself would detest the recognition he so richly deserves, seeing the positive impact and inspiration he has provided would no doubt bring him joy.

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