|Mark J. Rebilas / US Presswire|
|The Cardinals dedicated a statue of Pat Tillman outside their stadium. Should he have a bust in Canton, too?|
Seven years have passed since Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan, and support for his election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame seems to have grown over time.
Does Tillman, who left the Arizona Cardinals in 2002 to join the Army Rangers, deserve to be enshrined in Canton for his sacrifice? Our experts spend this Fourth of July debating the credentials of a man who left NFL millions to join the military and make the ultimate sacrifice.
Tillman's story should be heard in the HallPat Tillman deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But understand this is a highly biased opinion.
My editors for NFL Insider Magazine pushed me to call Pat after he joined the Army, even though he didn't want any media attention. I gave a half-hearted attempt anyway, knowing he wouldn't answer my call despite our positive working relationship.
I kind of hoped that Pat would pick up the phone. I really didn't want to get the story, mind you. I just wanted to wish him well and tell him I had the utmost respect for what he was doing. Like Pat, I came from a military family. Funny because my dad, a World War II veteran, doesn't like people with long hair, but Pat is his favorite player since Walter Payton retired.
Pat never thought he was doing anything special, never wanted special treatment above other people who joined the military. But America needs to hear Pat's story.
Take some time to look over the Hall of Fame's mission statement: To honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to professional football. To preserve professional football's historic documents and artifacts. To educate the public regarding the origin, development and growth of professional football as an important part of American culture. To promote the positive values of the sport.
If the Hall of Fame doesn't believe that Pat fits all four qualifications, they might as well shut it down.
If Tillman makes it, so should DelaneyI think of all the Instant Debate questions we've had, this is the toughest. I support Pat Tillman having his own section in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but it's hard for me to say he should have his own bust as a player. The Hall is for contributions to the game, and to me, Tillman made an incredible contribution to life. Does the Hall enshrine everyone who made an incredible sacrifice?
The person who made the greatest sacrifice I've ever heard about would merit as much consideration as Tillman. Joe Delaney, a very good running back for the Kansas City Chiefs in the early 1980s, jumped in a Louisiana swimming hole in an attempt to save three drowning kids. Delaney couldn't swim. He sacrificed a very promising career (he rushed for 1,121 yards as a rookie), and ultimately his life (at age 24), to help those who couldn't help themselves. So if the voters make an exception for an exceptional human being such as Tillman, I'd like to see No. 37 for the Chiefs get in there as well.
Delaney's death happened when I was a kid and just starting to follow pro football. To be honest, I still get choked up thinking about it. Or writing about it. If you don't know Delaney's story, do yourself a favor and look it up. It's worth your time.
Enshrining Tillman would be a way of giving backI can't think of any reason why Pat Tillman shouldn't receive the highest honor the game can bestow upon him. No one gave more of himself for all of us. A decision as selfless, noble and brave as his goes beyond any field of play. Anything that any league, group or institution can do to ensure that his sacrifice, story and legacy are remembered is the least we can give back.
Some things transcend football, and frankly, the Pro Football Hall of Fame should feel proud to have Tillman among its ranks. Tillman was one heck of a football player, for that matter, to say nothing of his intellect, leadership and iconoclastic individuality of thought. In a sport where routine is embedded into all who play, Tillman was willing to leave his hefty contract and the lifestyle he fought so hard to establish for his family for a much more real, visceral battle.
If that's not a Hall of Fame sacrifice, I don't know what is. An exhibit commemorating Tillman's life should be a fixture in Canton, and I can't imagine any of the men who already have a Hall of Fame bust would be anything but honored to have Tillman there with them for eternity.
Tillman should be honored as a contributorThis is a tough question because several athletes have sacrificed in their primes to defend our country. That said, Tillman deserves some form of distinction in Canton -- although I'm not quite sure enshrinement as a player fits. The Hall includes those who've contributed to the game in other ways, and Tillman should be one of those.
America was attacked by extremists in 2001, prodding Tillman to do something many of us wouldn't -- give up the comfortable lives we lead because others gave their lives. A lot of people, probably a lot of NFL players, talked about taking action, but Tillman did.
He was a true patriot whose death was controversial and unfortunate. He knew the risks, though, and still took that chance. The admiration for Tillman shouldn't be just for this generation.
Shrine, not a bust, the proper way to honor TillmanThe Pro Football Hall of Fame is a nice place to remember Pat Tillman, a good player and a great human being, but it might not be the best place. If the Hall of Fame is the place that brings the most attention to Tillman's legacy, so be it. However, a shrine and a statue in his name in front of the building might be a more effective way of remembering him for all he stood for and the sacrifices he made.
The Hall of Fame is about greatness on the football field. Pat Tillman was bigger than just football success, and that's a more important sense of responsibility on our part.