I used to wear #9 and I was very comfortable with it. I was telling the team, ‘You have to be willing to give up something very special to you, for instance the number 9… anybody wanna wear the #9?” (Not thinking anybody would have the guts to say ‘Yeah, I’ll wear it, Coach.’)
Colin Curtis puts his hand up and says, ‘I’ll wear it.’
So I wore #7 because it was available and then I went to #42 because of Pat Tillman.
I love what Major League Baseball did to #42 for Jackie Robinson because I love the Jackie Robinson story, I have a deep passion for African-American baseball players and their plight and what they overcame and the horrible injustice they endured…
That was in my mind…
Kevin Tillman was a year behind Pat and played parts of 3 years for me. When I recruited Kevin, Pat came in the office and started to tell me about him – he thought it was cool we were recruiting him and said we were going to like Kevin — he was no-nonsense. ‘You’re gonna get him, don’t worry about it.’ I used to ask Pat, ‘How old are you?’ He’d say 19. I’d be like, ‘Are you kidding?’ He seemed so mature — we would get into some pretty good discussions about a lot of things, his presence was just something special. That’s easy to say now but I felt that way back then. He would come out to practice and wait for Kevin after his workouts, he’d just sit there and read a book and wait for him to get done. We became pretty good friends.
I’m still really close to Kevin. I wasn’t all that close to Kevin back then but after Pat died, Kevin and I became really close. Still are today.
After what happened to Pat I knew that it was important for me to keep that number. Whenever people would look and see my number they’d go ’42, that’s an odd number.’
For me, the greatest example of my days so far of any human being is Pat Tillman: how he did it, his reason for doing it. He’s real. To make that decision to actually to do that, that wasn’t grandstanding — That was real. He was a real fighter.
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