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.