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Published on April 22, 2024
20 Years On: Remembering Pat Tillman, NFL Star Turned Soldier, at Annual Pat’s Run in TempeSource: Wikipedia/DoD, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Two decades after his death, the legacy of Pat Tillman, a former Arizona Cardinals player who left the NFL to join the U.S. Army, continues to be celebrated. Today marks the 20th anniversary of Tillman's death, with the annual Pat's Run event in Tempe drawing thousands to honor his memory and support the Pat Tillman Foundation's mission.

"When we got to spend time with Pat the world was just better, laughter was louder, beer was colder, coffee tasted better," Alex Garwood, Tillman's brother-in-law and a founding board member of the Pat Tillman Foundation, fondly remembered in a statement obtained by 12News. His influence lives on through nearly 900 Tillman Scholars, funded by more than $34 million invested by the foundation.

Doug Tammaro, senior associate athletic director at ASU, reflected on Tillman's transition from professional sports to military service in a conversation with ABC15. "When he went from pro to military, it didn't shock the heck out of me," Tammaro told ABC15. "It was a time our country needed it." ASU maintains its tribute to its former student and athlete through the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and a statue adorning Tillman's profound words.

Garwood emphasized that the essence of Tillman's legacy is about integrity and individuality. "It's not to be like him," Garwood said, "He thought for himself, and he did what he thought to be right," according to a ABC15 interview. ASU's Tammaro also expressed pride in Tillman's lasting impact, "Before he was USA, he was ASU and it's something ASU is very proud of," he said.

The 20th annual Pat’s Run, which took place on April 13, is a key event supporting the foundation and its scholarship programs. Ending on the 42-yard line inside ASU’s Mountain America Stadium, the run pays homage to Tillman's ASU jersey number. “Pat’s Run is for everyone,” Garwood told 12News. "It's a great place for fast people and slow people, come, it is an amazing celebration of life, of Pat and his friends and family. It’s honoring and committing to doing good for the scholars who are trying to make the world a better place."