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Remembering Arizona icon Pat Tillman 20 years after tragic death

© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Every April 22, the Arizona Cardinals, ASU and communities across the Valley all reminisce over the tragic death of American war hero Pat Tillman, and today marks the 20th anniversary of such event.

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As a result of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Tillman enlisted in the United States Army to fight and protect his country. Beforehand, the ASU alum declined a three-year, $3.6 million contract offer from Arizona after NFL three seasons (1998-2001) with the Cardinals.

Beginning his iconic journey in the army, Tillman was deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Once his time in Iraq concluded, the California native was transferred over to Afghanistan where he would unfortunately pass away.

During a gun battle with Afghan militants, Tillman was struck by friendly fire from an allied force on April 22, 2004.

For his courageous service after his death, Tillman would receive Silver Star and Purple Heart medals from the U.S. Army.

Following suit, the Cardinals inducted him in the franchise’s Ring of Honor and retired the #40 he wore in the NFL. The Sun Devils football team also retired his #42.

Since his death, the Pat Tillman Foundation was created by friends and family members of his. The foundation’s goal is to help veterans and their spouses with financial support towards pursuing a higher education with the Tillman Scholars Program.

As a way to raise proceeds for the program, the foundation has hosted 20 “Pat’s Run” events at Mountian America Stadium. Thousands of people from across the Valley and out-of-state run and compete in the multi-mile race for a good cause every year and did so two Saturdays ago on April 13.


In one of the most tragic events in our country’s history, he was one of many heroes who put their lives on the line to protect the people they loved.

Dropping a lucrative sports career for the betterment of the United States, Tillman made an unselfish, life-changing decision that will forever be told for generations to come.

Tillman was not just a warrior on the football field, but also on the battlefield and deserves all the recognition he receives for leaving a lasting legacy in the state of Arizona.

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Alec Cipollini covers Phoenix Sports News for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on his X account, @AlecCipollini

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