Pat Tillman: A patriot who gave all

Author: Eric Sof

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Pat Tillman was a professional American football player and Army Ranger who died under controversial circumstances during deployment in Afghanistan in 2004.


He was a professional American football player with a multi-million contract in the National Football League (NFL) with the Arizona Cardinals. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks he responded and enlisted in the US Army in June 2002. His service in Iraq and Afghanistan and subsequent death were the subjects of much media attention. At one point, he turned down a $3.6 million contract to fight the war on terror.

Early Life

Patrick Daniel Tillman was born on November 6, 1976, in the family of Mary (Spalding) and Patrick Kevin Tillman. He was an extraordinary athlete who loved baseball and American football. He went to Bret Harte Middle School and helped lead Leland High School to the Central Coast Division I Football Championship.

Football Career

At the beginning of his career, Tillman started playing for Arizona State University in 1994 where he excelled as a linebacker. In the 1998 National Football League Draft, he was selected as the 226th pick by the Arizona Cardinals. Tillman moved over to play the safety position in the NFL and started ten of sixteen games in his rookie season.

Pat Tillman was a professional football player and US Army Ranger
Pat Tillman was the first professional football player to be killed in combat since Bob Kalsu, who died in the Vietnam War in 1970 (Photo: Tillman’s Foundation)

At one point in his NFL career, Tillman turned down a five-year, $9 million contract offer from the St. Louis Rams out of loyalty to the Cardinals. Tilman turned down a contract offer of $3.6 million over three years from the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the US Army in his last season. It was in May 2002, eight months after the September 11 attacks and after completing the fifteen remaining games of the 2001 season.

Tillman was a family man and respectable member of the community who was very close to his family and high school friends. During his service, he wrote personal journals where he described what family and friends mean to him. He drew strength from them and deeply valued his closest friendships, parents, wife, and family. He was very committed to his high school sweetheart whom he married just prior to enlistment in the US Army Rangers, Marie Ugenti Tillman. He enlisted and served together with his brother Kevin Tillman.

Military Career

Tillman and his brother Kevin enlisted on May 31, 2002. In September 2002, they completed basic training together. The two brothers completed the Ranger Indoctrination Program in late 2002 and were assigned to the 2nd Ranger Battalion in Fort Lewis, Washington. Tillman resided in University Place with his wife before being deployed to Iraq. After participating in the initial invasion of Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, in September 2003, they entered Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and graduated on November 28, 2003.

Tillman was subsequently redeployed to Afghanistan, and based at FOB Salerno before the deadly incident.


Pat Tillman died under suspicious circumstances in the mountains of Afghanistan. At first, the United States Army reported that he had been killed by enemy fire but didn’t disclose any other details. Controversy ensued when a month later, on May 28, 2004, the Pentagon notified the Tillman family that he had died as a result of a friendly fire incident; the family and other critics allege that the Department of Defense (DoD) delayed the disclosure for weeks after Pat Tillman’s memorial service out of a desire to protect the image of the US military at the moment.

Pat Tillman was an Army Ranger and great patriot
Pat Tillman was an extraordinary man who left his luxury life to defend his country (Photo: XY)

Pat Tillman was the first professional football player to be killed in combat since Bob Kalsu, who died in the Vietnam War in 1970. Tillman was posthumously laterally promoted from specialist to corporal. He also received posthumous Silver Star and Purple Heart medals.

Pat Tillman’s legacy

Today, there are numerous events, charities, and other memories to ensure that this hero will not be forgotten. Most of them are organized by Pat Tillman’s Foundation.


Profession: Athlete, American football player
Age: Died at 28 (1976-2004)
Place of birth: Fremont, California, United States of America
Schools: Arizona State University, Leland High School
Cause of death: Friendly fire, Firearm, Gunshot
Place of death: Spera, Afghanistan
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