A bronze likeness of perhaps the greatest Sun Devil in school history now adorns the north end of Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium.
The school unveiled a bronze statue of former soldier and pro-football player Pat Tillman during a ceremony Wednesday, a monument designed as a tribute to the man who gave so much — and as inspiration to the players trying to follow his footsteps.
“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Tillman’s brother, Kevin, said before the drape was dropped. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was, ‘How can I make myself a better person in all these different facets of my life?’ And ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”
The ceremony, held in the redesigned football facilities in the north end zone, drew several hundred people, including Tillman’s family, former and current ASU players and university officials.
Tillman played at Arizona State from 1994-97 and went on to play for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals before walking away from a multi-million dollar contract to serve his country in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Tillman became an Army Ranger in 2003 and served until he was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004.
Current Sun Devils coach Todd Graham has made sure every wall in the redesigned football complex included at least one photo of the man who never backed down from a challenge. The players see an image of Tillman at the end of the tunnel where they enter the field.
In addition to the images, Graham said the football team will start a new tradition of touching the statue as they charge onto the football field, according to ASU Now.
“I want to challenge our players with this,” he said. “If you come out and touch that statue, you need to pour everything you have onto the field and play with passion because that’s what his life was about — having a passion for what you’re doing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.