13 Years After His Death, Pat Tillman Returns To His Alma Mater

Community
A bronze statue of alumnus Pat Tillman was revealed at ASU's football stadium on Aug. 30.
Photo via ASU

In 2004, NFL football player-turned-Army Ranger Pat Tillman was killed in a friendly fire incident in the Khost province of Afghanistan. Thirteen years later, Tillman has returned to his alma mater — Arizona State University — as a bronze statue that will greet Sun Devil fans for generations to come.


Tillman attended ASU from 1994 to 1997, where he played linebacker. There, he distinguished himself as a powerful key player, despite his relatively small stature for the position. During his junior year, in no small part thanks to Tillman’s efforts, the team went undefeated until the Ohio State Buckeyes gave them their first loss in the 1997 Rose Bowl. But Tillman wasn’t just a good football player: he excelled academically, graduating with a 3.85 GPA.


"We're grateful to Arizona State University and the Sun Devil community for honoring Pat's legacy,” Marie Tillman, his widow and the board chair and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation, said in a statement to Task & Purpose. “Pat made his mark as a student, athlete and soldier. We hope his statue stands as a reminder of the principles he lived by and his dedication to empower those around him on and off the field."

Tillman was drafted in 1998 by the Arizona Cardinals, but his plans for the future changed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. After finishing up the 2001 season in March 2002, Tillman turned down a three-year, $3.6 million contract to continue playing with the Cardinals to enlist in the Army that May alongside his brother Kevin, who turned down a spot with the Cleveland Indians. The two brother completed basic training in September 2002 and the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program at Fort Benning, Georgia, shortly thereafter.

After serving in Iraq during the initial invasion in 2003, Tillman deployed the following year to FOB Salerno in the Khost province of Afghanistan with 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. But on April 24, 2004, a friendly fire incident took his life. A Washington Post article from 2004 suggested “the incident was the result of a series of problems and failures as the Ranger platoon moved from one assignment to another through the mountainous terrain along the Pakistan border, about 90 miles south of Kabul, near the village of Spera” — a senseless mistake.

The newly designed Sun Devil Stadium is something of an homage to Tillman. Before entering the field, the players all exit the locker room and run through a vestibule of motivating phrases called Tillman Tunnel, and every wall of the stadium has a picture of the revered soldier. The statue, according to head coach Todd Graham, will be a reminder to all the players to persevere both on and off the field.

“We start the tradition this year of every player touching the that statue before they take the field,” Graham said in a statement to Task & Purpose. “I can tell you what my message is going to be is don't talk about it. If you are going to go out there and touch that statue, you get out on that field and you bring it like he did.”

Marie Tillman continues to run the Pat Tillman Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping veterans and their spouses by offering them academic scholarships at places like ASU.

“Sun Devil Athletics is extraordinarily proud as we pay tribute to one of the greatest and most well-respected Sun Devils in history,” Ray Anderson, vice president for ASU athletics, said in a statement. “The magnitude of Pat's legacy extends far beyond this university, this community and the state of Arizona.”


The number of U.S. troops diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury following Iran's missile attack on Al- Asad Air Base in Iraq now stands at 50, the Defense Department announced on Tuesday.

Read More
On Jan. 28, 2020, four Marines were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for their actions in June 2018, when they rescued a family that had been caught in a dangerous rip current. (U.S. Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. William L. Holdaway)

In June, 2018, when a group of Marines noticed a family was being swept along by a powerful rip current at Atlantic Beach in North Carolina they immediately swam out to save them. Now, more than a year later, those Marines have been recognized for their actions.

Read More

The long-awaited Special Operations Command's ethics review has finally been released, which argues that there is no "systemic ethics problem" in the special operations community while acknowledging a range of underlying problems stemming from a high operations tempo and insufficient leadership.

Read More
U.S. Army/Sgt. Daphney Black

While the Army is making strides at Fort Wainwright with hopes of improving the quality of life at the base and stopping suicide, Army leaders are also reminding soldiers of one simple thing that could make a difference: Get to know your teammates, and look out for one another.

Read More
(ISIS photo)

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

In a series of bloody campaigns from 2014 to 2019, a multinational military coalition drove the Islamic State group, often known as ISIS, out of much of the Iraqi and Syrian territory that the strict militant theocracy had brutally governed.

But the Pentagon and the United Nations both estimate that the group still has as many as 30,000 active insurgents in the region. Thousands more IS-aligned fighters are spread across Africa and Asia, from the scrublands of Mali and Niger to the deserts of Iraq and mountains of Afghanistan, to the island jungles of the Philippines.

I keep track of the loose alliance of various global affiliates and insurgent groups collectively known as the Islamic State. It's part of my research chronicling America's wars in remote lands where I have worked for the CIA and the U.S. Army. I also monitor Islamic State activities around the world for a University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth project I lead called MappingISIS.com

In recent months, the Islamic State group has reconstituted itself in the Syria-Iraq region and continues to inspire mayhem across the globe.

Read More