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Arizona State’s Todd Graham describes inspiration Tillman Tunnel provides his team


With the recent renovation of the Pat Tillman Tunnel in Sun Devil Stadium, Arizona State football players have all the inspiration they need right before they take the field. And it’s the main reason why head coach Todd Graham says he doesn’t need to give his players lengthy pregame speeches anymore.

“I give a 90-second talk, that’s it, before we go out,” Graham said on Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf show Friday. “I used to give a 5-minute talk. You know, I used to try to give this big, inspirational speech.”

He said when his team leaves the locker room and enters the Tillman tunnel, they immediately see former Sun Devil players — who are invited to each home game to greet the team before it takes the field.

“When you open that door and you see the eyes of those former players…that’s better than any pregame speech. And so you know when you walk through that tunnel whom you represent,” the coach said.

Graham said he also feels that the team should be well-prepared based on the work the players did during training camp and in practice each week leading up a game.

“I’m not near as nervous on game day because of that preparation,” he said. “This is why I have confidence in our guys, because I feel like we’ve trained them. You can’t wait until game day.”

Graham said the revamped tunnel has a dark and foggy feel to it, and that there is a video screen that shows Tillman highlights mixed in with clips of great plays that current Sun Devils have made. He said the large picture of Tillman on the door that opens to the field makes it look like the late Sun Devil legend is leading the team onto the gridiron.

“You can feel the people pounding on the bleachers. It’s pretty intense,” he added. “I try to be right up there on the front left because when that door opens I try to get out of the way of that team, because they come out of there with a lot of enthusiasm. It’s a pretty intense and unique deal.

“It’s kind of a right of passage for every one of our players to get the opportunity to do. And it’s special because who Pat was, and it’s special because you’re a Sun Devil.”