Seventeen years ago, around 7 a.m., I was helping get my kids ready to take to daycare when I got a call from a local TV sports producer asking if I had heard anything about Pat Tillman.
No, I said, and I was thinking, why ... he was deployed overseas.
There were reports that he's been killed, she said, and that was a serious gut-punch.
We all know the story by now. We all know the story comes up right around draft time -- the day after the news broke Tillman was killed, the team drafted Larry Fitzgerald. But even after all this time, the memories hit hard when late April comes around. He remains a fixture that permeates the organization, from the statue outside State Farm Stadium to his name and number in the Ring of Honor to his training facility locker, preserved in the hallway downstairs here in Tempe where players and coaches and staff walk past it on a daily basis.
There is little to say about Pat that hasn't already been said the past 17 years, and even before that after he joined the Army. April 22 remains a date emblazoned in many minds, and certainly with those who lived through it, watching Pete Kendall and Anthony Edwards tearfully speak about the former Cardinal. Thinking back to the previous December in Seattle, when Tillman visited the team on its road trip against the Seahawks and let people know he was going back to Afghanistan (Tillman had already done his tour and could've left the service. But instead he decided to return.)
I have the card that was handed out at his funeral, and it contains a line (attributed often to William Wallace) that always sticks with me when thinking of Tillman, because it encompasses him perfectly.
Every man dies. Not every man really lives.