Patrick Tillman was born to parents Mary and Patrick on November 6, 1976, in San Jose, California. The oldest of three boys, Pat was a caring and protective brother, and without a television in the home, the boys spent much of their time reading and playing outdoors.
A talented football player in high school, Pat received a scholarship from Arizona State University to play for the Sun Devils. In 1997, he helped lead the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl after an undefeated season. Pat’s intensity made him a quick fan favorite, and his skillful play at linebacker earned him three designations to the All-Pac-10 team and the Pac-10 Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1997.
Held in high regard by professors and coaches, Pat was chosen for the Pac-10 All-Academic Football Team, as well as the NCAA’s Post-Graduate Scholarship for academic and athletic excellence. Pat graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. in Marketing in just three and a half years.
In May 2010 the National Football Foundation announced Pat was one of 12 players selected from a ballot of 77 All-America players to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Hall’s Class of 2010. In addition to Hall of Fame enshrinement, Pat was honored posthumously at an ASU football game in fall 2010.
The Arizona Cardinals selected Pat in the 7th round of the 1998 NFL Draft. He quickly became the team’s starting safety and broke the franchise record for tackles (144) in 2000.
Pat never let his success go to his head; he continued to drive the same truck he had in college (with no air conditioning) and refused to be tethered to a cell phone. He was an avid reader and lively debater, often drawing strangers into conversations.
He kept himself busy and challenged in the off-season, competing in a marathon and a half Ironman triathlon, while pursuing a Master’s degree in history from his alma mater. He also volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club of Arizona, Boys Hope Girls Hope and the March of Dimes, and read and talked to students in schools across the Phoenix Valley.
Answering the Call to Serve
In the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001, Pat proudly put his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals on hold to serve his country. This decision was just one of many he made over the course of his lifetime to help others and serve a cause greater than self-interest.
Pat and Kevin Tillman joined the U.S. Army in July of 2002, committing to a three-year enlistment. They were assigned to the second battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Lewis, Washington, serving tours in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2004. They were recipients of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 11th Annual ESPY Awards in 2003.
While the story of Pat’s death may have been the most publicized in the War on Terror, sadly, it is merely one of the thousands of tragic stories that deserve recognition. Pat’s family and friends created the Pat Tillman Foundation in 2004, following his death while serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan.
Inspired by his distinguished life and legacy, the Pat Tillman Foundation is building a community of scholars dedicated to improving their own lives, the lives of their families and their country by creating a spirit of service.
The Pat Tillman Foundation is a national leader in providing resources and educational support to veterans, active servicemembers and their dependents. The Tillman Military Scholars program aids all veterans and specifically the ever-growing population of veterans and dependents of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
The mission of the Pat Tillman Foundation is to invest in military veterans and their spouses through educational scholarships; building a diverse community of leaders committed to service to others.