Photo courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals
A lot of bad news came out last week, including the murder-conviction of former New England Patriots’ tight end Aaron Hernandez, and that can sometimes make you forget what so many NFL players stand for. One of them was Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinals’ safety killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan 11 years ago Wednesday.
The Talk-of-Fame guys spend some time this weekend with his former coach, Dave McGinnis, to remind our listeners that when the NFL talks about looking for “character guys” in the draft next week, they’re talking, at its best, about Pat Tillman.
Tillman stunned the football world when he walked away from a multi-million dollar career on the eve of heading into free agency to become an Army Ranger. He served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and was tragically killed on April 22, 2004 by friendly fire while deployed in the latter. McGinnis recalls the day Tillman came into his office to tell him of his decision as one of the most memorable encounters of his coaching life.
“He took his chair and pulled it around right in front of me and said ‘Mac, we need to talk,’ ” McGinnis says. “He was explaining to me what he and Kevin (his brother)decided. What never came out of my mouth was ‘Are you sure?’ Pat never went into anything without being prepared.”
McGinnis also discusses how Tillman was the embodiment of the “character guys” all NFL teams will be searching for on Draft Week, and then recalled the final time they met.
Tillman was home on leave before heading to Afghanistan and came to visit McGinnis and his former teammates before a game in Seattle, having decided he would return to pro football and Arizona when his tour was up. McGinnis promised him a spot on any team he was a part of and then invited him to come to the pre-game meal. Tillman at first refused, not wanting to disrupt the team, but eventually was convinced to attend.
“When Pat Tillman walked in that room, I’m telling you, there was dead silence,” McGinnis said. “It was really pretty awe-inspiring. The legend of Pat Tillman had already started to grow a little bit…I said I loved him and he said ‘I love you too Mac.’ I’m going to hold you to that (roster spot promise).’ That was the last time I ever saw him alive.”
McGinnis’ recollections will leave you mad, sad and glad to hear the story of one of the NFL’s finest products.
In addition, the Hall-of-Fame guys conclude their eight-week draft of NFL greats with a stunning development in the first round during which our producer pulled a fast one on Rick and Ron that lands Clark his finest player and leaves them appealing to the commissioner.
Dr. Data cautions the Buccaneers and the rest of the NFL to be careful when drafting a quarterback with the first or second pick if they aren’t sure he’s the man, and Rick makes the Hall-of-Fame case for Maxie Baughan. A forgotten linebacker of the 1960s who made nine Pro Bowls while the rest of the linebackers selected for the All-Decade team made only 10, Baughan remains on the outside looking in at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
More than a half dozen Hall-of-Fame first round picks also visit the show with their reflections on the draft and their days in the NFL. That, and much more, is available this weekend on the Talk of Fame Network and iTunes podcasts.