Sunday, April 25, 2004

Tagliabue honors fallen hero



By Barry Wilner
The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Pat Tillman was praised at the NFL draft as a hero by commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who wore a black ribbon with Tillman's name on it and a Cardinals helmet pin with the No. 40 attached.

Tillman, who left the Arizona Cardinals in May 2002 to join the Army Rangers, died Thursday night in an ambush in Afghanistan. His jersey was hung below a video screen, along with a photo of the former Cardinals safety.

"Pat Tillman personified the best values of America and of the National Football League," Tagliabue said Saturday. "Like other men and women protecting our freedom around the globe, he made the ultimate sacrifice and gave his life for his country."

A moment of silence then was held in Tillman's honor, after which the crowd at Madison Square Garden chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A."

"It puts things in perspective," Iowa tackle Robert Gallery said of Tillman's death. "The guy gave up a career in the NFL, which shows what kind of man he is. He is a hero to all of us, especially the guys in football."

The Cardinals took Tillman in the seventh round of the 1998 draft, the 226th player chosen. He developed into a starting safety known as a hard hitter.

All NFL staff members wore ribbons and pins in honor of Tillman.

In Washington, Sen. George Allen, R-Va., the son of the late Hall of Fame coach, sent a letter to Tagliabue asking the league to dedicate the season to Tillman and other U.S. soldiers "serving in the war on terrorism."

In Tempe, Ariz., a steady stream of people stopped at a makeshift memorial outside Cardinals headquarters to pay respects to Tillman.

On Friday, the Cardinals set up a table in front of their headquarters with Tillman's jersey in a glass frame. In front, was a large poster showing Tillman in uniform on the sidelines with one knee bent.

His death hit the NFL hard, from veteran players and coaches to the members of this year's draft class.

"It's real tragic," Virginia Tech cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "He decided to leave the NFL and go fight for his country, fight the good fight. He loved his country, and you know how big a role model he is. He said, This is what I need to do.' He's a hero."




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