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Tillman at Center of Navy Visit


Michael Bidwill (right) presents a Pat Tillman jersey to Nimitz Captain Michael Manazir.

Because of Pat Tillman, the Cardinals and the military will forever be linked.

So when team president Michael Bidwill was invited by the Navy as part of a group to visit the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, it was natural for Bidwill to bring along a gift – a Tillman No. 40 jersey.

"We wanted to have something that was really a permanent gesture of our thanks – not just from the organization, but our fans and all of Arizona," Bidwill said. "We couldn't think of anything more symbolic than a Tillman jersey."

The jersey, accepted by the ship's commanding officer Captain Michael Manazir, will be framed and displayed on the ship where it can be seen by the 5,000 crew members.

"The Pat Tillman jersey is a specific and very special example of Americans honoring soldiers' sacrifice," Manazir said. "What is most impressive about Pat Tillman's sacrifice is that he took what can be considered as a value lifestyle, something that others aspire to, and gave up fame and fortune and sacrificed his life. "That's why it was so touching to me when Michael presented the jersey to the


For a photo gallery of Michael Bidwill's trip to the Nimitz, click here. ship. … We are going to recognize the Tillman jersey as an example of selfless sacrifice."

Bidwill took the trip, along with Cardinals media relations manager Chris Melvin, as part of a program created to raise awareness of what the Navy does through civilian leaders – or as they are called on board, "Distinguished Visitors."

The 15-person group met the Nimitz in the Pacific Ocean, about 75 miles off the coast of California, Thursday. Then the group got the ultimate overnight tour.

"It was truly one of the more exciting things I have done in my life," Bidwill said. "It was rewarding as an American and a taxpayer to see what these young sailors were doing."

The visit was also exciting to many of the sailors on board, especially ones from Arizona. Operations specialist Sean Collins was born and raised in Phoenix and said he has followed the Cards his entire life. He called it an "honor" to meet Bidwill and said it meant a lot the Cards sent representatives to visit the ship.

Navy veteran Steven Link, who serves as air support on the flight deck, said he also is a long-time Cardinal fan who knew at least 30 people with season tickets.

"It was such a memorable season in 2008," Link said. "We almost shocked the world."

Bidwill said he ran into a few sailors who had actually attended the Wild Card playoff game against Atlanta, before the Nimitz had gone out to sea again.

The ship is run by 3,000 crew members, with 2,000 other crew on board to handle the air support.

It wasn't the first time the Cardinals had personnel on a Navy ship. Nimitz Rear Admiral John Miller was on the ship back in 2001 when some Cardinals cheerleaders went on a similar visit in the Persian Gulf.

That was before 9/11, and before Tillman created headlines with his move from the NFL to the Army. And it was before Tillman lost his life defending his country.

"(Tillman) is a hell of a story and was a hell of a guy and somebody we all look up to," Links said. "He was very inspiring to all of us that serve our country."

Contact Darren Urban at Posted 3/10/09.

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