For my entire childhood life I loved nothing more than football. I watched football year round. I would actually sit down and watch a football game and record it as I watched it. After the game was over I would go back and watch the recording to focus more on learning than entertainment. Football was and has always been my passion. I was committed to football almost above everything else. That level of commitment is what allowed me to play football at a Division 1 level and eventually get paid to play football. Passion and commitment however should not be relegated to sports. Passion and commitment to something bigger than sports is what matters most.
Pat Tillman was a successful NFL Football player for the Arizona Cardinals. Prior to playing in the NFL, Tillman played college football at Arizona State University where he excelled on and off the field. In 1997 he helped his team to an undefeated season and earned ASU Most Valuable Player honors. Tillman was an excellent student. He won the Clyde B. Smith Academic Award in 1996 and 1997. He was also the Sporting News Honda Scholar Athlete of the Year in 1997 and the 1998 Sun Angel Student Athlete of the Year.
In 1998, Tillman was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals and over time he earned a starting position on the team. He eventually set a new team record for number of tackles in 2000. However, after finishing the 2001 season, Tillman enlisted in the U.S. Army, turning down a three-year, $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals to do so. Pat Tillman said, “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.” Tillman went through training to become an Army Ranger and was assigned to the second battalion of 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Lewis, Washington. He served in several tours of duty, including time in Iraq.
On April 22, 2004, Tillman lost his life while in canyon in eastern Afghanistan. He lost his life doing what he was passion about and committed to. Everyone who ever had contact with Tillman indicate that he never did anything without passion and being wholeheartedly committed to it. It is imperative that we teach our young athletes’ to do everything with passion and commitment. They can’t just be committed to sports. Sports are only one part of life. There’s so much more to life and Pat Tillman’s legacy is evidence of such.