Bronze statue of Pat Tillman, created by an ASU alumna, looms large both in ASU hearts and now at Sun Devil Stadium
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Arizona State University has unveiled a new statue of American hero Pat Tillman, who played football at ASU before sacrificing his life as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan in 2004.
On Wednesday evening, a maroon-and-gold wrap dropped to reveal the life-size bronze figure of Tillman, shown in his ASU uniform, ready to sprint onto the field. Including a pedestal, the statue stands 7½ feet tall in front of the new Tillman Tunnel that leads players onto the north end of Frank Kush Field at Sun Devil Stadium.
Kevin Tillman spoke at the unveiling ceremony, telling the crowd that his brother’s likeness is everywhere at ASU but that the university had a big impact on Pat as well.
“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could be. He didn’t focus on money or things or a pretty statue,” he said. “It was, ‘How do I make myself better in all of these different facets in my life?’ And ASU gave him the opportunity to do that.”
ASU Coach Todd Graham said the football team will start a new tradition of touching the statue as they charge onto the football field.
“I want to challenge our players with this,” he said. “If you come out and touch that statue, you need to pour everything you have onto the field and play with passion because that’s what his life was about — having a passion for what you’re doing.”
Artist Jeff Carol Davenport, an ASU alumna, created the statue, which portrays a younger Pat Tillman with a fringe of hair peeking out from under his helmet.
“I’m an ASU graduate and I had followed Pat’s journey, and I always thought it would be wonderful to do a sculpture of Pat,” said Davenport, an art teacher at Sandra Day O’Connor High School in Phoenix who spent nine months on the project.
“It’s a great honor to do this.”
Tillman was a student-athlete at ASU from 1994 to 1998, earning a degree in marketing, and then played football professionally with the Arizona Cardinals. Reacting to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Tillman brothers enlisted in the Army together in May 2002. Pat Tillman died in Afghanistan in 2004.
Tillman’s influence still touches the ASU football team, whose members wear number 42 on their uniforms every year. Graham said the team watches highlights of Tillman almost every day because his passion for playing inspired his teammates to excel.
Arthur Pearce II, a Mesa businessman and third-generation Sun Devil, donated the statue after hearing Graham’s vision for it.
“I’ve always admired Pat, as everybody has in Arizona,” said Pearce, who earned a degree in business from ASU in 1975 and watched Tillman play in the 1990s.
“Pat symbolizes courage and persevered to be the best he could be,” said Pearce, who pulled the cord that unveiled the statue at a ceremony attended by the Tillman family, ASU leaders and football players.