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Football player Pat Tillman enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2002. He was killed in action in 2004, and the exact circumstances of his death are still in question.
Pat Tillman - Mini Biography (2:16)
A short biography of Pat Tillman who was a great athlete but also an avid reader and family man. His friends viewed him a Socrates in Surfer-Boy packaging. Leaving his football career behind, he enlisted in the army after the 9/11 attacks.
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In 2002, Pat Tillman left a successful football career with the Arizona Cardinals to join the U.S. Army. He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004. The official story was that he was shot by enemy forces during an ambush, but it was later revealed that he may have been killed by friendly fire, and that Army commanders and members of the Bush administration covered up the truth of what had happened.
"Sports embodied many of the qualities I deem meaningful. However, these last few years, and especially after recent events, I've come to appreciate just how shallow and insignificant my role is... It's no longer important."
"This isn't about Pat, this is about what they did to Pat and what they did to a nation. [The truth] may not be pretty but that's not what war is all about. It's ugly, it's bloody, it's painful. And to write these glorious tales is really a disservice to the nation."
Professional football player and soldier Patrick Daniel Tillman was born to Mary and Patrick Tillman on November 6, 1976, in San Jose, California, the oldest of three sons. Tillman excelled at football while attending Leland High School, having led his team to the Central Coast Division I Football Championship. Tillman's considerable talent landed him a scholarship to Arizona State University (ASU), which he attended after graduating high school.
At ASU, Tillman thrived on the field and in the classroom. The linebacker helped his team to achieve an undefeated season and to make to the 1997 Rose Bowl game. He won the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and was selected as the ASU Most Valuable Player of the Year in 1997. Tillman also earned awards for his performance as a student, winning the Clyde B. Smith Academic Award in 1996 and 1997; the Sporting News Honda Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 1997; and the 1998 Sun Angel Student Athlete of Year.
Tillman was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the 1998 National Football League (NFL) draft. Over time, he earned his place as a starting player and set a new team record for the number of tackles in 2000. Loyal to his team, Tillman turned down a lucrative contract with the St. Louis Rams to stay with the Cardinals in 2001.
When the United States' invaded Afghanistan, Tillman decided to put his professional career on hold in order to join the U.S. military. "Sports embodied many of the qualities I deem meaningful," he said in 2002. "However, these last few years, and especially after recent events, I've come to appreciate just how shallow and insignificant my role is . . . It's no longer important."
After finishing the 2001 season, he planned on enlisting in the U.S. Army with his younger brother, Kevin. His decision to leave the sport to join the military garnered a lot of media attention; some had a hard time believing that Tillman would give up all of the perks of being a professional athlete in order to fight for his country. Yet Tillman turned down a three-year, $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals to enlist. Before starting his military service, Tillman married his high school girlfriend Marie.
Tillman and his brother went through training to become Army Rangers and were assigned to the second battalion of 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Lewis, Washington. Tillman served in several tours of duty, including time in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as a stay in Afghanistan to serve in Operation Enduring Freedom.
On April 22, 2004, Tillman was killed in action while in a canyon in eastern Afghanistan.
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