Happy Thanksgiving

I am out of here, but I wanted to wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving.
I am thankful for a lot of things including my wife, my life, my family, etc., but I am especially thankful to the brave men and women who serve and protect this country of ours. I don't agree with why we are over there, but I support all of the men and women who are over there sacrificing their lives.
I would like to share with everyone something I wrote about an American soldier about 3 years ago. I met him only for a brief moment, but it is a moment I will never forget. His name is Pat Tillman.

It is not every day you get to meet your hero. But there he was, less than 10 feet away.
I was sharing the same Boise, Idaho air with the man who shocked the world, Pat Tillman.

Shocked the world is one of those sports clichés that gets tossed around like a Frisbee on a sunny afternoon. I think it may have started when Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in Japan. The phrase has picked up steam lately with the U.S. soccer team “shocking the world” by advancing to the World Cup quarterfinals. The results of these events were indeed shocking, but the last time I checked the world’s mental health for the most part seems to be doing OK.

But if one person really deserves to use that cliché, it is Tillman. In a story that is familiar to most of us by now, the former Arizona Cardinals defensive back turned down millions to enlist in the Army where he hopes to become a member of the Rangers, an elite military unit.

Bye-bye mini-camp, hello boot camp.

When the news first surfaced, the words Tillman and crazy collided in a few sentences across this nation of ours. A 25-year-old man in the prime of his NFL career leaving fame and fortune behind to become an army of one. In fact, if some no-name baseball player gets immortalized with the Mendoza line, then Tillman should get his own phrase. It could replace “shocked the world.” For example, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays could reel off enough wins to squeeze into the playoffs and dethrone the Yankees as American League Champions. The next day around the water cooler you might say “Hey those D-Rays really pulled a Tillman.”

We will never know Tillman’s thoughts on the matter because he won’t speak to the media about it and told the Army he wants no part of any publicity regarding his enlistment. The curious public wants to know why, but does it really matter.

Just because 999,999 out of 1,000,000 people would not do what Tillman is doing doesn’t mean it is shocking or crazy; it is just the type of guy he is.

Last year, he turned down a multi-million dollar offer from the Rams to stay with the Cardinals out of loyalty. The same Rams who have been to the Super Bowl two out of the last three years. Tillman took $512,000 to stay with Arizona. The last time the Cards did anything was in the film “Jerry Maguire.”

A lot of us don’t understand why someone would do these things?

Maybe it just about perspective. A crowded elevator smells different to a midget. Tillman just sees and does things differently than the rest of us. It is an admirable quality in a society where conforming to the latest trends is the norm. Or maybe Tillman just realizes money really isn’t everything. He might actually be an athlete that believes he is living his dream and gets paid quite well regardless if his contract doesn’t have an extra zero added on to it.

But to me, all that stuff really doesn’t matter. Who cares what his reasons are and how much money he turned down. In a world of billboard advertising run amuck, Tillman is like a web site with no pop-up ads. He is one of a kind and maybe his actions will inspire others. Tillman was never the biggest, fastest or strongest guy out there, but he made it in the NFL because he had guts, courage and determination.

Now he is just following another dream, and there is nothing wrong with that. So maybe he did shock your part of the world, but not from where I come from.
It is not every day you get to meet your hero and I am just grateful mine is Pat Tillman.

Postscript -- Pat Tillman did become an Army Ranger. He was serving his second tour of duty in Afghanistan when he was killed April 22, 2004 by friendly fire. Rest in peace, Pat.


  1. Crap-- I'm at work and you made me cry. That was awesome! This went under my radar as a non-sports fan and though I remember hearing that a football player had enlisted, I didn't hear about his death. What a shame!!! The world really lost someone with his death!!I am with you Mr Shife, we owe a debt to those that are fighting oversees whether we agree with the reasons or not. THANKS FOR POSTING THIS AWESOME PIECE!!! HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU AND THE MISSUS!!!!

  2. First off HAPPY THANKSGIVING Mr Shife hope you and the Mrs, oh and Quincy have a great holiday!

    As for Tillman, I was at the Sun Bowl last year(Purdue played there) and we were playing Arizona State where he went to college. They had an extremely touching and nice tribute on the man and probably about a 15 minute Standing O. He was a true hero!

  3. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Mrs. Shife.
    My heart and prayers go out every night to the men and women of our military. I never thought I would have a hero outside of Jesus and my father, but my list grew to include each and every one of the men and women of the U.S. military.

  4. My hope os that the troops go home sooner than later.

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving and stay away from the midgets.

  5. Anonymous11/23/2005

    Happy thanksgiving!

  6. There is nothing I can add ...you spoke volumes !!


  7. Happy Holidays bra'.

  8. Happy Thanksgiving Shifey. Don't forget to wish our best mate Chairborne a good one too.

  9. Tillman was truly amazing. He has been an idol of mine for a while. He stood for loyalty, bravery and honesty in a place where most people forgot what those words meant. Thank you for sharing his story, again. It always surprises me to run into people (mostly non-football fans, BAH!) who had never even heard of this great man.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  10. Nice, Mr. Shife. Safe travels. Delicious meat. All that.

  11. Tillman was an awesome man. American Hero. Happy Bird, Shife!

  12. happy thanksgiving MrShife. now who's the one with bird envy?

  13. Yes, have a great T-Day break. Get some viddles and tons of rest.

    FYI, that was an amazing post. I think I must have written the first couple of paragraphs myself. ;)

  14. Great writing...

    Piece out, my brother...

    Happy Thanksgiving...

  15. Great post Matt. You did a good thing here by remembering Pat Tillman.

    I noticed that the word "midget" was used. Are you still sober?? :)

    Have a great time with the fam. Be safe.

  16. Thanks for the post man, I'm here, right now, in Iraq, in large part, to Pat Tillman and his death. It's a long story. He did some great stuff, I read the after action report on the incident, friendly fire is no less deadly than enemy fire, all the deaths feel a bit nonsensical to me, and Pat served in the same platoon with his brother, they were in the same firefight that killed Pat. I got two brothers-that would tear me up.

  17. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

    Thank you also to that wonderful tribute not only to Pat Tillman, but to all US soliders here and abroad. My hubby joined at 32. Alot of his passion was because of 9-11. They all need the love and support of their fellow country men and women.

    I am Designs sister.... I found you off her blog.

  18. Happy Thanksgiving Mr & Mrs Shife!

    And, yes, I have to admit that Tiggysmum is my sister. But shhhhh, don't tell anyone!

  19. Grest post, I remember hearing about him. Happy Thanksgiving.

  20. Happy Thanksgiving. Very touching.

  21. Anonymous11/25/2005

    I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!

  22. Same here, I hope you had a great thanksgiving as well!


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