Airius Moore was sitting in his government class in the fall of 2013, a high school senior in Beavercreek, Ohio, and up until that point, he didn’t know anything about Pat Tillman.
But his teacher, Charlie Back, was one Moore greatly respected. When Back started talking to the class about some of his personal heroes, he brought up Tillman and that he had read Jon Krakauer’s book, “Where Men Win Glory” – which detailed Tillman’s story.
Moore was intrigued, and asked Back after class if he could borrow the book. Back wasn’t sure if Moore would actually read it, but he liked that Moore had interest. Moore devoured the pages.
“Since then, I’ve been ‘wowed’ by him,” said Moore, an undrafted linebacker who just happened to be signed by the Cardinals – Tillman’s team – in April.
“I believe things happen for a reason,” Moore added, during an interview only a few steps from Tillman’s preserved locker that anchors a hallway near the team’s current locker room. “I found out I was coming here, and when I got here and saw his picture (in the training room) and I saw this (locker) and I was like, ‘This is so crazy. I read the book but this makes it even more real.’ ”
It caught Back’s attention as well. The teacher fired off a text to his former student as soon as he saw the news of Moore’s signing, broaching Tillman right away.
After Moore read the book, “we constantly talked about the book, and Pat’s passion and commitment,” Back said.
It took Moore’s commitment to get to Arizona. Once upon a time Tillman, despite a stellar college career, didn’t get drafted until he was a compensatory selection late in the seventh and final round. Moore didn’t even get that.
The North Carolina State product not only went undrafted, but he did not immediately get a contract anywhere either. Instead, Moore was invited to the Cardinals’ rookie minicamp only on a tryout basis.
“I didn’t think I was going to be a tryout guy,” Moore said. “I thought my college career was going to be good enough to maybe get drafted. At least be an undrafted free agent. But it didn’t work out like that.
“Things happened the way they were supposed to. I’m here now, and I know it wasn’t a given. I’m thankful for every single day.”
That Moore is with the Cardinals still leaves Back – admittedly a Cowboys fan, but thrilled to see Moore in Arizona because of the Tillman connection – shaking his head.
“It’s amazing how things like that work out,” Back said.
A couple of years ago, Back helped create and teach a new class for the social studies department called Sports And Society. One unit is about athletes and the military – and Tillman’s story is a big part of it.
Moore didn’t get a chance to take that class. As a Cardinal, however, he gets a new Tillman perspective.
“(The book) shows how human he was, what type of person he was,” Moore said. “The type of compassion he had. You had to earn his respect. I don’t know if I looked at him as this larger-than-life guy, it was more ‘that’s a cool dude.’
“(Tillman) was … this down-to-earth person. (With me) coming here and having that confirmed by people that actually met him and talked to him is really cool too.”