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Pat Tillman walked away from a multimillion-dollar NFL contract to join the Army and became an icon of post-9/11 patriotism. When he was killed in Afghanistan two years later, a legend was born. But the real Pat Tillman was much more remarkable, and considerably more complicated than the public knew...
A stunning account of a remarkable young man's heroic life and death, from the bestselling author of Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, and Under the Banner of Heaven.
“Gripping, heartbreaking reading. . . . At once unique and universal. . . . A fitting tribute.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“The first deeply reported book about Tillman by a first-rate journalist.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A riveting examination of another American idealist's startling path and haunting death.” —The Daily Beast
“The combination of Krakauer and Tillman seems hard to resist. . . . Krakauer is a masterly writer and reporter. . He skillfully sketches Tillman’s singular personality.” —The New York Times Book Review
From the Hardcover edition.
During Pat Tillman's stint in the Army he intermittently kept a diary. In an entry dated July 28, 2002--three weeks after he arrived at boot camp--he wrote, "It is amazing the turns one's life can take. Major events or decisions that completely change a life. In my life there have been a number." He then cataloged several. Foremost on his mind at the time, predictably, was his decision to join the military. But the incident he put at the top of the list, which occurred when he was eleven years old, comes as a surprise. "As odd as this sounds," the journal revealed, "a diving catch I made in the 11-12 all-stars was a take-off point. I excelled the rest of the tournament and gained incredible confidence. It sounds tacky but it was big."
As a child growing up in Almaden, California (an upscale suburb of San Jose), Pat had started playing baseball at the age of seven. It quickly became apparent to the adults who watched him throw a ball and swing a bat that he possessed extraordinary talent, but Pat seems not to have been particularly cognizant of his own athletic gifts until he was selected for the aforementioned all-star team in the summer of 1988. As the tournament against teams of other standout middle-school athletes got under way, he mostly sat on the bench. When the coach eventually put Pat into a game, however, he clobbered a home run and made a spectacular catch of a long fly ball hit into the outfield. Fourteen years later, as he contemplated life from the perspective of an Army barracks, he regarded that catch as a pivotal moment--a confidence booster that contributed significantly to one of his defining traits: unwavering self-assurance.
In 1990, Pat matriculated at Almaden's Leland High School, one of the top public schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, both academically and athletically. Before entering Leland he had resolved to become the catcher on the varsity baseball team, but the head coach, Paul Ugenti, informed Pat that he wasn't ready to play varsity baseball and would have to settle for a position on the freshman-sophomore team. Irked and perhaps insulted by Ugenti's failure to recognize his potential, Pat resolved to quit baseball and focus on football instead, even though he'd taken up the latter sport barely a year earlier and had badly fractured his right tibia in his initial season when a much larger teammate fell on his leg during practice.
With a November birthday, Pat was among the youngest kids in Leland's freshman class, and when he started high school, he was only thirteen years old. He also happened to be small for his age, standing five feet five inches tall and weighing just 120 pounds. When he let it be known that he was going to abandon baseball for football, an assistant coach named Terry Hardtke explained to Pat that he wasn't "built like a football player" and strongly urged him to stick with baseball. Once Tillman set his sights on a goal, however, he wasn't easily diverted. He told the coach he intended to start lifting weights to build up his muscles. Then he assured Hardtke that not only would he make the Leland football team but he intended to play college football after graduating from high school. Hardtke replied that Pat was making a huge mistake--that his size would make it difficult for him ever to win a starting position on the Leland team, and that he stood virtually no chance of ever playing college ball.
Pat, however, trusted his own sense of his abilities over the coach's bleak predictions, and tried out for the Leland football team regardless. Six years later he would be a star linebacker playing in the Rose Bowl for a national collegiate championship. Twenty months after that he began a distinguished career in the National Football League.
Midway between San Jose and Oakland, the municipality of Fremont rises above the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, a city of 240,000 that's always existed in the shadow of its
Excerpted from Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer
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