Pat Tillman made the Ultimate Sacrifice

One of the biggest pet peeves sports fans have are seeing athletes acting larger than life. And then there is Pat Tillman. The ex Sun Devil great turned his back to a prosperous NFL career to serve his country. Yesterday, he made the ultimate sacrifice as he was killed in combat in Afghanistan.

Sun Devils fans, as well as the common person on the street, were stunned when Tillman made his decision to join the Army. Now, we are all left stunned again, not to mention heartbroken, over this American tragedy. Some ASU officials were fortunate to have dimmer with the former ASU linebacker when the basketball team played in the state of Washington in January of this year. One of those officials described the whole event as "fascinating", which is ironic in Tillman's case.

You could search every corner of the earth and not find a more humble person than Pat Tillman. His refusal to talk to the media about the decision to join the army, is one that many others in his position would not have made. Then again, when did Tillman not walk to the beat of his own drum? Sporting long hair, driving a beat up car when drafted by the Arizona Cardinals, only to replace that vehicle by a bicycle, running a marathon, and the list goes on…

At ASU, he was a rarity soaring on the field (1997 Pac-10 defensive player of the year), as well as in the classroom (graduated in less than four years with honors). Even his "promise" at the time, to then Coach Bruce Snyder, that he won't redshirt with the Sun Devils, is viewed as anything but false bravado. One would be foolish to think that he wouldn't be able to fulfill his dream and become an Army Ranger. After all, he excelled in anything he was a part of.

Aside from the obvious tragedy of his death, lies even a bigger catastrophe. We live in a world that could use more Pat Tillmans. His presence could be an enormous inspiration for decades to come. One hour in the presence of this American hero could convince a prospect college athlete to get his life and academics in order. A cadet struggling in boot camp, would undoubtedly find new strength listening to Tillman's words. The role model title will forever be attached to Pat Tillman, along with hero, bravery, etc. But deep down, we all know that those labels don't even come close to doing him justice. Nevertheless, Pat Tillman would be genuinely embarrassed by those accolades, not to mention the several tributes that are probably going to take place in the next several weeks.

However, the biggest salutation we can give to Pat Tillman, is to come together as a nation and support our troops worldwide. Regardless if you are for or against the military campaigns in Iraq or Afghanistan, you must never forget the tens or hundreds of thousands of young men and women, who just like Pat Tillman are sacrificing their lives for our country. And just like Tillman, they are motivated by personal conviction, and not the respect or the praise that they may receive.

Rest in peace Pat Tillman. The Sun Devil nation mourns together with your family and friends.

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