About 28,000 people were outfitted with the number 42 to honor fallen soldier and former ASU football player Corporal Patrick Tillman at Tempe’s eighth annual Pat’s Run on Saturday.
Participants began the 4.2-mile course Saturday morning outside of the Sun Devil Stadium and finished at the 42-yard line on Frank Kush Field. Sunday marked the anniversary of Tillman’s death.
As a senior in 1997, Tillman helped ASU football make it to the Rose Bowl after an undefeated season. The Arizona Cardinals selected him as the 226th pick in the 1998 NFL Draft after he was voted the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. Eight months after 9/11, Tillman and his brother Kevin enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Tillman was killed by friendly fire in April 2004 while serving in Afghanistan.
Accounting and finance senior Susan Eckman said crossing the 42-yard line to finish the race four years in a row is a “euphoric” feeling.
“It makes you stop and think when you do cross, you know you made it and honored Pat,” she said.
The Pat Tillman Foundation, created by the soldier’s friends and family in 2004, sponsors the run each year.
The foundation offers scholarships through its Tillman Military Scholars program, specifically for students in the armed forces.
Eckman received a scholarship through the Foundation’s Tillman Scholars-ASU Leadership Through Action program, which students participate in throughout their four years of college. The program involves taking specific classes, including one on Tillman’s life.
Eckman and nursing senior Laura Kinahan are the first of the program’s graduates to participate for all four years.
“The Pat Tillman Foundation, for us, has really embodied our college experience,” Eckman said.
Kinahan said the foundation has been a huge part of her college career.
“Both programs are helping to build personal growth in young adults to become leaders based on the ideals of Pat Tillman,” Kinahan said.
She said she enjoyed seeing people support Pat’s Run by registering to participate.
“We are here for one reason, and it’s cool to see 28,000 people here for Pat’s legacy,” Kinahan said.
Kinesiology and Spanish junior Kat Lichtsinn, who has spent three years in the Tillman Scholars-ASU program, said she felt inspired when she saw people holding signs for their loved ones in the military.
“It’s great to support military that served for our country,” Lichtsinn said.
She said she learned about Tillman’s “down-to-earth” attitude in the class she took as part of the program and felt a connection to that side of his personality at the run.
“I liked how he was himself and he didn’t try to conform to what people thought he would be,” she said.
She found it interesting that Tillman would show up to football practice riding a bike while his Cardinal teammates drove Ford Mustangs, Lichtsinn said.
ASU alumnus Kyle Wilson said it was his second time running in the event.
“I never run faster than I do on the day of Pat’s Run,” Wilson said.
He said he remembers people’s shock upon hearing about Tillman’s death and the somberness it created throughout the Valley.
“Even prior to his death, he was looked to as a shining example of Arizona,” Wilson said.
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