It’s hard to believe Pat Tillman has been dead 10 years. Feels like just yesterday he was in Afghanistan fighting for freedom and the American way of life. But I guess that’s the idea behind never forgetting the sacrifice Tillman made when he stepped away from a seven-figure NFL salary to join the U.S. Army.
Regardless, it’s important that we continue to find ways to ensure that future generations won’t lose sight of Tillman’s initial sacrifice, as well the ultimate sacrifice which is so hard for many of us to swallow.
On the 10th anniversary of Tillman’s tragic death, Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports argues that Tillman deserves to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame:
No, there are no precedents for Pat Tillman’s HOF candidacy. There’s not a single guy enshrined in Canton who’s a legend because of something that happened away from football — who’s a legend because he walked away from football — but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Because what Pat Tillman did, who Pat Tillman was, is unprecedented. Nobody in the modern NFL, millionaire athletes who can retire in their early 30s with enough money to last a lifetime, has ever given all of that up to serve his country. Knowing there is a war. Knowing he would go there. Knowing he could die.
The problem, of course, is that Tillman spent only four seasons in the NFL. And he was by no means a star. Had he kept playing instead of walking away, he wouldn’t have become a Hall of Famer. And for that reason, he probably shouldn’t have a bust alongside the 287 current members of the Hall.
I’d argue, though, that he deserves something more than that. A bust wouldn’t do him justice.
Tillman walked away from professional football. He was about way more than the National Football League, and it’s impossible to compare him to football legends.
My favorite piece of Hall of Fame criteria: Can you tell the story of the history of the game without the player in question? The thing about Tillman is that you can tell the story of the history of pro football without him, but you shouldn’t be able to tell the story of American history without him. He’s bigger than the NFL. He’s bigger than sports.
His bust wouldn’t fit in next to Lawrence Taylor and O.J. Simpson. In fact, some might consider such a scenario to be insulting and inappropriate. Instead, Tillman needs his own isolated shrine, separate from NFL stars from years past.
Devote a room in Canton to former NFL players who have served their country and call it the Pat Tillman Room. Nobody will complain about that, and it’ll differentiate the true American heroes from the football stars.