TUESDAY WAS the 10th anniversary of the death of former Arizona Cardinals defensive back Pat Tillman, who was a victim of friendly fire while fighting with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, the first professional football player to be killed in combat since the Vietnam War.
Earlier this week, ESPN did a special "Outside the Lines" show to commemorate his story and spirit. As you might expect, Temple defensive coordinator Phil Snow, who coached Tillman at Arizona State, couldn't take his eyes away from the TV screen.
"The one memory I'll always remember is when the Cardinals called me to tell me he was enlisting," Snow recalled. "They wanted to know if I could talk to him. So I called and said, 'Pat, what's up?' He said, 'Snow, you're not going to try and talk me out of this, right?' I told him, 'No, I just want to know what's going on.' Turns out he and his younger brother [Kevin], who played baseball at Arizona State, had actually driven to Denver and elisted. They weren't going to go unless they could go together. So they got hold of a Congressman [to make it happen].
"I asked him why. He said, 'Coach, all the things that we're able to do in this country, people have died for. I haven't earned the right to do what I do, and this is my chance to earn the right to live in America.' That's just how it was."
Now, every time he hears the national anthem, he thinks of Pat.
"That's never left our family," Snow said. "Our boys were little [at the time], and they loved him. It's amazing how often his name comes up. If you're around Pat, you never forget Pat . . . My wife really gets depressed about that. She thinks, 'What a wasted life.' I don't look at it that way. Pat didn't think it was a waste, either. All the great things I was involved in with Pat, that's what I hold onto.
"He was the funniest guy that you've ever been around. He was a real stud, a man's man."