To err on the side of passion is human and right and the only way I’ll live.
Patrick Tillman was born to parents Mary and Patrick on November 6, 1976, in San Jose, California. The oldest of three boys, Pat was a caring and protective brother and a natural leader with a tendency to push limits – in life, the classroom and on the field.
At Leland High School in San Jose, California (1990-1994), that challenger mentality would become his signature. His diligence and relentless curiosity amazed almost everyone he came into contact with. In high school he was a star who led his high school team to a Central Coast Division I Football Championship – after he was told he was too small to ever play football.
Pat gained admiration and high regards from his professors, coaches and fans alike.
Pat’s NFL success did not go to his head or break his principles. He still drove to games in the same beat up truck he had in college. He had no cell phone. Instead he chose to read voraciously and develop, debate, and discuss his ideas with eager listeners, family and friends. He made your passion his passion. In the off-season he challenged himself physically with marathons and half-Ironman triathlons while pursuing a Master’s degree in history from his alma mater. He volunteered with Boys and Girls Clubs, the March of Dimes, and read and talked to students in schools across the Phoenix Valley.
In the spring of 2002, Pat married his high school love, Marie, and upon his return from their honeymoon, announced to the Cardinals he had decided to place his NFL career on hold to enlist in the U.S. Army with his brother, Kevin. The decision shocked many and garnered national media attention despite his refusal to speak publicly about the choice.
While the story of Pat’s death may have been the most publicized in the War on Terror, it is Pat’s life, principles and service that are his true legacy. Pat’s family and friends started the Pat Tillman Foundation to carry forward that legacy by giving military veterans and spouses who embody those principles the educational tools and support to reach their fullest potential as leaders, no matter how they choose to serve.