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Newz Forum: FOOTBALL: Tillman family on hand for jersey retirement

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posted on Sep, 20 2004 @ 05:44 PM
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals honored Pat Tillman in an emotional halftime ceremony that featured the fallen player's widow and other members of his family.

In her first public comments since her husband's death, Marie Tillman thanked all who had supported the family.

"It really helps us knowing that his spirit and memory live on in all of you," she said to the rousing cheers of the crowd.

She was joined at midfield by Tillman's brother Richard and his parents. Cardinals vice president Michael Bidwill presented Tillman's widow with a framed Pat Tillman jersey.

A giant No. 40 jersey was unfurled in Sun Devil Stadium, where Tillman played as a star linebacker for Arizona State and an overachieving safety for the Cardinals.

Tillman left a lucrative contract in the NFL in 2002 to join the Army Rangers with his brother Kevin. He was killed April 22 in the Khost province of Afghanistan, the first NFL player to die in combat since the Vietnam War. He was 27.

A military investigation concluded he was likely killed mistakenly by fire from other U.S. troops.

In a video message on the giant screen at the stadium, President Bush praised Tillman and others who have died in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"As much as Pat Tillman loved competing on the football field, he loved America even more," Bush said. " ... Courageous and humble, a loving husband and son, a devoted brother and a fierce defender of liberty. Pat Tillman will always be remembered and honored in our country."

Tillman was shown talking about what the flag meant to him in an interview conducted after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"My great-grandfather was at Pearl Harbor," Tillman said. "A lot of my family has done far more. I really haven't done a damn thing as laying my butt on the line like that, so I have a great deal of respect for those that have, and what our flag stands for."

Also speaking via video, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said of Tillman, "While many of us may be blessed to live a longer life than Pat did, few of us will ever live a better one."

Every NFL player wore a decal bearing Tillman's No. 40 this weekend. The Cardinals will wear it all season. No. 40 commemorative pins were distributed to everyone who came to the game.

"We're very humbled," Tillman's brother-in-law Alex Garwood told reporters before the game. "I don't presume to speak for him certainly, but if he were here, you can bet that he would be looking each and every one of you in the eye and saying 'Thank you.' "

The NFL and Cardinals are donating proceeds from the sale of Tillman's jersey to the foundation that bears his name. Garwood is the executive director of the fledgling foundation. Kevin and Marie Tillman serve on its board of directors.

"First and foremost, we're going to carry Pat's legacy forward," Garwood said. "We're going to do that by inspiring others to make positive change in themselves and the world around them."

He said the foundation already had received personal checks from about 450 people. Some wrote the word "hero" at the bottom of the check.



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