Former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rob Moore was coming off a career season when safety Pat Tillman joined the team in 1998.
Now a wide receivers coach for the Buffalo Bills, Moore reflected on his early experiences and eventual friendship with Tillman on the team’s website for Memorial Day.
Moore said the Cardinals rookie hit him and took him to the ground during a 7-on-7 drill that was supposed to be non-contact.
“So naturally, he and I got into a slight scuffle,” the receivers coach told BuffaloBills.com.
But before he let hot-headedness cement his views on the rookie, Moore got a recommendation that would turn that hit into something much more meaningful.
“One of the coaches said, ‘Look, instead of fighting the kid, why don’t you pull Pat aside and try to teach him to be a pro.’ So I kind of took him under my wing.”
From then on, Moore was assigned to Tillman. The two sat next to each other on every team plane ride, where Moore would quickly come to know Tillman’s strength of character and “scary intelligence.”
Moore said he would talk with the former Arizona State standout about everything from politics and literature to fatherhood while on the team plane. The two continued to square off against each other frequently in practice.
“We had a friendship, and it went beyond the white lines of football,” the 10-year pro said.
Even though Moore, now 45, retired from football after the 1999 season, he remembered Tillman saying back then, “I haven’t done a damn thing … I’m just a football player,” in consideration of how both his father and grandfather fought in wars.
echoed similar sentiments after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and his subsequent retirement from football after that season, just four years into his NFL career.
So when Moore found out that Tillman had enlisted in the Army and would be deployed to Iraq, it didn’t surprise him one bit.
“He expressed that he wanted to do something that mattered. That was important to him. He didn’t think he had done anything at that point.”
Tillman only knew one way, Moore said, and that way was going through life with unbridled conviction. The hits during practice, his philosophies on life, leaving a prosperous NFL career behind to enlist in the Army — everything fell in line with that all-or-nothing mentality.
Tillman was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan just over 10 years ago at the age of 27.
Moore said he has photos of his fallen friend hanging in his house in Arizona.
“He was fighting for something he truly believed in,” the Bills assistant said. “He was trying to satisfy an urge in himself, something that hadn’t sat well with him. He wanted to give back and I think he went out in the way in which he wanted to, fighting for his country.”