Tuesday marked the tenth anniversary of Pat Tillman’s death, and Dennis Dodd made sure it didn’t pass unnoticed.
“I admired him for a long time – as a player and a person and obviously what he did for the sacrifice he gave, not only to leave the NFL, (but) then to give the ultimate sacrifice,” the CBSSports.com columnist said on The MoJo Show. “His is no greater or less than anyone else in the U.S. military (who gave) his life, but it is a unique story.”
Tillman, who played for Arizona State and the Arizona Cardinals, left the NFL in 2001 to become an Army Ranger. He was killed in Afghanistan during Operation Mountain Storm while trying to hunt down Osama Bin Laden.
“In an age where we throw around the words ‘hero’ and ‘battle’ when we’re referring to games cavalierly, he was truly involved in both,” said Dodd, who wrote a column on Tillman this week. “What should the takeaway be from this? To me, it’s to question everything. Question authority. Question your government. Because what that administration did – and it did go to the highest levels, I’m sorry, they have to own it – was shameless. To co-opt his death to sell a war – and that’s exactly what they did; that’s been proven – (was wrong). They picked on the wrong person. They picked on the wrong family.”
Dodd wonders what Tillman would think of sports in America today. Dodd feels we don’t have many Pat Tillman’s around anymore and that it’d be a lot better if we did.
“He was very much a straight shooter and against B.S.,” Dodd said. “I just wonder what he would think of all this stuff going on in college athletics today and pro athletics as well. I don’t think he’d like it. He was that way when he was alive. He was a very unique person.”
Brian Jones asked what Tillman would have thought of the crusade to pay college athletes.
“That’s an interesting question,” Dodd said. “I don’t know. I could see him saying, ‘Hey, these guys get enough scholarship (money), and they work hard enough.’ But I could also see him saying, ‘Yeah, they deserve the rights. They deserve a discussion about being at the table – maybe not so much getting paid, but having a say in the working conditions.’”
One thing that’s certain, however, is that Tillman loved giving back, which is why there’s an annual Pat’s Run race in which adults run 4.2 miles and kids run .42 miles. The race ends at the 42-yard line at Sun Devil stadium.
Tillman, of course, wore No. 42 during his playing days.
That run has helped the Tillman family dole out nearly $5 million in scholarship money to military veterans.
While it means a great deal to the Tillman family that Pat is not forgotten, there remains anger and sadness about his death – particularly the cover-up.
“I don’t think they’ll ever come to terms, not with something like that where they basically spat on his grave,” Dodd said. “It was a cover-up at the highest level. The cover-up’s always worse than the crime. In attempting to co-opt his death for their gain, (the government) raised his heroism even greater. Again, he’s not the only guy to die of friendly fire, but I think his story tells you that things aren’t always as they are. He was a great person, he was a great player and a great human being.”