Pat Tillman A Real Hero For Today's Youth

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Pat Tillman's decision to turn down a million-dollar contract from the Arizona Cardinals in order to join the Army rocked the sports world.

In professional football, money is the motivation of most every player.

Around the country, a frequently asked question is "what kind of person would turn down $1 million for the $1,000-per-month life of an Army private?"

On Memorial Day, Payson High School coach Mike Loutzenheiser, an avid Cardinal fan, walked into the Roundup offices and asked "What was Tillman thinking?"

When I first read of his decision, I thought it was a late April Fool's joke. It's understandable why we are all amazed by Tillman's choice not since the days of Ted Williams has a professional athlete turned down a rich contract to join the military.

For Tillman, the tragic events of Sept. 11 were apparently enough to cause him to forgo riches for the opportunity to join the fight against terrorism.

For those of us who watched Tillman toil at Camp Tontozona and in Flagstaff during the Cardinals' training camps, the college-linebacker-turned-professional-safety always has been a breath of fresh air.

Described by the press as "tough and hard-nosed," Tillman's motor was always in overdrive.

In a 1999 Cardinal practice session in Flagstaff when he was a lowly seventh-round draft pick trying to earn a spot on the roster Tillman's breakneck playing style obviously irked his veteran teammates. They preferred a less-aggressive style of practice.

But throughout the session, Tillman never let up. He practiced as if he were playing in the Super Bowl. That was always his style.

At Arizona State, he was the emotional leader of the 1996 team that won the Pac-10 championship and advanced to the Rose Bowl.

In ASU's 19-0 shutout over defending two-time national champion Nebraska (1996), Tillman was all over the field. He finished with eight tackles (one for a 10-yard loss) and a fumble recovery. Without him, there would have been no upset of the Huskers.

He attained gridiron greatness as an undersized (5 foot, 11 inches, 192 pounds) player who was dwarfed by his teammates and opponents.

After graduating from Leland High School in San Jose, Calif., he was lightly recruited. Most all coaches and recruiters deemed him too small and too slow to succeed in college. He carried that same baggage into the pro ranks.

Almost a Cardinal afterthought in the draft, Tillman used his aggressive style of play to earn a starting strong safety position. In 1998, he was the first rookie starter at safety since the Cardinals moved to Arizona 10 years earlier.

In a day when many collegiate athletes never graduate, Tillman earned a marketing degree from ASU in three and one-half years. He also graduated summa cum laude by compiling a 3.84 grade average.

It's being reported that Tillman wants his enlistment in the Army to be hush-hush. That's too bad. He could be a great role model for the youngsters who call today's pampered, overpaid athletes their heroes.

Another wash

There should be no excuses to drive dirty cars and trucks around the Rim country.

During the past month there were two benefit car washes. Another wash is slated for June 1 this one will benefit the Lady Longhorn girls basketball program at Arby's restaurant in Payson. The wash begins at 10 a.m. and continues until 3 p.m. For a donation, members of the squad will wash cars.

Lady Longhorn coach Shaun Hardt says the proceeds earned at the benefit will help fund the basketball program. Often, there are expenses that high school teams incur that are not paid for by the strapped-tight Payson High athletic budget.

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