Founded in 2008, the Tillman Scholars program supports our nation’s active-duty service members, veterans and military spouses by investing in their higher education. Since the program’s inception, the Foundation has named over 450 Tillman Scholars at more than 100 institutions nationwide.
The scholarship covers educational expenses, including tuition and fees, books and living expenses. But scholars receive much more than just funding. Our program unites the best talent and leadership in the military to make a significant impact in the fields of medicine, law, business, policy, technology, education and the arts.
Pat Tillman's Story
Patrick Tillman was born to parents Mary and Patrick on November 6, 1976, in San Jose, California. The oldest of three boys, Pat was a caring and protective brother and a natural leader with a tendency to push limits – in life, the classroom and on the field.
At Leland High School in San Jose, California (1990-1994), that challenger mentality would become his signature. His diligence and relentless curiosity amazed almost everyone he came into contact with. In high school he was a star who led his high school team to a Central Coast Division I Football Championship – after he was told he was too small to ever play football.
Pat gained admiration and high regards from his professors, coaches and fans alike. “You don’t find guys that have that combination of being as bright and as tough as him,” remarked his ASU coach. The Arizona Cardinals agreed, and selected Pat in the 7th round of the 1998 NFL Draft. Many people doubted his ability to deliver as a starter on the Cardinal’s opening-day roster. He answered that skepticism by becoming the team’s starting safety and broke the franchise record for tackles in 2000 with 224.
In the spring of 2002, Pat married his high school love, Marie, and upon his return from their honeymoon, announced to the Cardinals he had decided to place his NFL career on hold to enlist in the U.S. Army with his brother, Kevin. The decision shocked many and garnered national media attention despite his refusal to speak publicly about the choice.
Pat and Kevin joined the U.S. Army that July, committing to a three-year term. They were assigned to the second battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Lewis, Washington. They served tours in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2004. On the evening of April 22, 2004, Pat’s unit was ambushed as it traveled through the rugged, canyon terrain of eastern Afghanistan. His heroic efforts to provide cover for fellow soldiers as they escaped from the canyon led to his untimely and tragic death via fratricide.
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