clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

ASU's 50 Best Professional Athletes: No. 36: Former NFL Safety Pat Tillman

Checking in at No. 36 in our countdown of the 50 greatest athletes to attend Arizona State is former NFL safety Pat Tillman.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Editor's Note: For this series we chose to only take into consideration the accomplishments of Pat Tillman ON THE FIELD as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.

Obviously, we are all aware of what Tillman did following his NFL career and how much he sacrificed for his country. We have not ignored the incredible impact Tillman has had on Arizona State but for this series our editors chose to only take into account on-field accomplishments.

Pat Tillman is the ultimate story of perseverance, in every sense of the way. The San Jose, Calif., native was an undersized linebacker at Arizona State from 1994-1997, winning Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 1997 when he led the team with 93 tackles along with 15 tackles for loss and four sacks.

Tillman was a two-time academic All-Conference (1996-1997) and also participated in the East-West Shrine Game in 1997.

Tillman was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the seventh round of the 1998 NFL Draft. After playing outside linebacker at ASU, he was moved to the secondary and played safety for Arizona. Tillman started 10 games as a rookie in 1998 and broke out in his third season in the league.

In 2000, Tillman recorded 120 solo tackles, nine pass deflections, two forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries on his way to earning All-Pro honors from Sports Illustrated.

The following season Tillman tallied 92 total tackles in 12 games with a pair of pass deflections and a forced fumble for the Cardinals. Tillman reportedly turned down a contract offer of over $9 million to stay with the Cardinals because of his loyalty to the team.

After the 2001 season, Tillman turned down a reported $3.6 million deal over three years with the Cardinals to join the United States Army. Tillman was killed in action on April 22, 2004.

Tillman's legacy reaches far beyond the football field. His No. 42 is retired at ASU, the Arizona Cardinals placed Tillman in their Ring of Honor. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

More than a decade after his death, Pat's Run and the Pat Tillman Foundation continue to go strong.