Marie Tillman makes first trip to Pat Tillman statue

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Marie Tillman visits a statue of Pat Tillman at ASU. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Marie Tillman visits a statue of Pat Tillman at ASU. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Marie Tillman (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Marie Tillman (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

About 35,000 people will take to the streets of Tempe on Saturday to honor Pat Tillman’s legacy. 

Tillman started for the Arizona State Sun Devils and Arizona Cardinals. He gave it all up following 9/11, turning down millions of dollars to join the U.S. Army. Tillman’s death in Afghanistan, by friendly fire, became a national tragedy.

But who was Pat Tillman? We asked the person who knew him best.

[SPECIAL SECTION: 14th Annual Pat's Run]

“I think it’s just passion right, that he couldn’t contain,” said Marie Tillman, Pat’s widow. “I think it’s contagious. Everybody wants to be around someone who has the passion for life, that passion for whatever it is that they’re focused on. I think that so many people are looking for that where they can find that spark in their life to keep going.”

On Friday morning, Marie made her first trip to the new Tillman Tunnel. The tunnel was named in Pat’s honor. He famously shouted “give’em hell devils” as ASU took the field and upset top ranked Nebraska in 1996. ASU renamed the tunnel in Tillman’s honor in 2013.

“It's beautiful,” said Marie. “Just really great to see ASU continue to support Pat's legacy and continue to be such an important part of the football program here, and the legacy of the university."

She also saw the Pat Tillman statue for the first time in person. Under Tillman’s likeness is the quote, “somewhere inside, we hear a voice. It leads us in the direction of who we wish to become. But it is up to us whether or not to follow.” 

Pat Tillman wrote those words in a letter to Marie when he decided to leave the NFL and join the Army Rangers.

“My favorite part is definitely the quote,” said Marie, who met Pat in high school in the Northern California. “It’s something that Pat wrote in a letter that I definitely come back to. Especially when you have tough decisions or are trying to figure out which direction to go.”

It’s a message Marie tries to harness every day. She is remarried and raising five kids. Her new husband Joe has three children from a previous marriage.  Marie and Joe have added Mac and Mia to the family. They’ve also started a business boutique kids clothing company that ships straight to your door.

“I definitely have a full schedule,” said Marie, laughing that sometimes she needs a Tillman Tunnel speech at the start of her day. 

“I feel like my life has been on a journey.  A huge part of me having kids sparked the idea for a business I started called Mac & Mia. That's really my day job and where I spend the majority of my time, along with still being involved in the foundation."

This is the 14th year for Pat’s Run at ASU. It’s grown beyond Marie’s wildest dream.

"It's been pretty incredible. When I think back to where we started and all these volunteers coming together to put together what was a memorial run of about 1,000 people,” said Marie. “Fast forward to today to selling out two years in a row with 35K, not what we were thinking was going to happen when we started. I think it is a testament to who he was and how he lived his life and what he stood for stand the test of time and if anything has gained momentum."

To learn more about the Tillman legacy click here.

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