ICYMI: Former All-Pro Pat Tillman sacrificed his NFL career, turning down million dollar contract to enlist in US army after 9/11 attacks
Pat Tillman famously turned down a multi-million dollar contract to enlist in the U.S. Army after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington D.C.
Tillman was killed in action by friendly fire while serving in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. Before his enlistment, Tillman was a star linebacker for Arizona State University, where he played from 1994 to 1997.
In 1998, the Arizona Cardinals drafted him in the seventh round with the 226th pick, keeping him in the same state where he played college football. Tillman would switch positions to safety, where he excelled.
In his four-year NFL career, Tillman had 340 tackles, three interceptions, 2.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles. Tillman was, also, named Sports Illustrated’s All-Pro in 2000.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Tillman once turned down a five-year, $9 million contract with the St. Louis Rams out of loyalty to the Arizona Cardinals. After the 9/11 attacks, Tillman turned down a three-year contract to enlist in the U.S. Army.
He joined the Army Rangers, an elite infantry and special forces unit, and he served several tours in combat before he died while serving in Afghanistan.
Pat Tillman honored after his death
By sacrificing a lucrative NFL contract to serve his country, Tillman became a symbol of duty and honor.
The former Cardinals safety was inducted into their Ring of Honor, the Cardinals retired his jersey number 40, and the PAC-12 Conference changed its Defensive Player of the Year award to the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year award. His former college, Arizona State University, also retired his jersey number 42.
The ASU Alumni Association and the Pat Tillman Foundation partnered to establish the Pat Tillman Honor Run, which is a 4.2-mile (after Tillman’s college football number) course for charity.
Paying homage to Tillman’s number on the field and his sacrifice for his country, the charity run takes place in ASU’s main campus in Tempe, AZ every year and proceeds go toward the Tillman Scholars Program. The charity run and scholarship program expanded to Flagstaff, AZ to accommodate the demand for participants in the run.
Tillman’s legacy will forever be tied to the NFL and his military service with the U.S. Army. Tillman's lasting memory will be one of an NFL player who sacrificed money to serve his country.