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ASU unveils Pat Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium

The walls around Sun Devil Stadium and the new football complex are lined with photos of Pat Tillman. Images of the former player and Army Ranger can be found across the campus and around town, too.

Now there’s a bronze likeness of perhaps the greatest Sun Devil in school history.

Arizona State unveiled a bronze statue of Tillman during a ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium on Wednesday, a monument designed as a tribute to the man who gave so much and as inspiration to the players trying to follow his footsteps.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Tillman’s brother, Kevin, said before the drape was dropped. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was how can I make myself better person in all these different facets of my life, and ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”

The ceremony, held in the redesigned football facilities in the north end zone, drew several hundred people, including Tillman’s family, former and current ASU players and university officials.

Tillman played at Arizona State from 1994-97 and went on to play for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals before walking away from a multimillion contract to serve his country in wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Tillman became an Army Ranger in 2003 and served until being killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004.

Current Sun Devils coach Todd Graham has embraced Tillman’s spirit and his family during his six years at Arizona State, making sure every player knew the impact he had. He also made sure every wall in the redesigned football complex include at least one photo the man who never backed down from a challenge.

The players see an image of Tillman put at the end of the tunnel where they enter the field and said the Sun Devils will now start a tradition of touching the statue before taking the field.

“One of the reasons Pat is on every wall is he earned to be on every wall,” Graham said. “He embodied what we are about. We’re trying to teach guys to win and be a champion in life and that’s what we’re here to celebrate. That’s what Pat’s life was all about.”

Steven Border, the director of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, said Tillman was more than just an athletic example for ASU players.

“I don’t know if there are many Division I athletes that are completing their degree in three and half years and did it the way he did,” Border said. “(He) did it with highest honors and was actually working on a master’s degree while playing with the Arizona Cardinals.”

Here is the long process of designing and molding the statue, as told by the artists who created it, and images of the unveiling from Wednesday.

KTAR News’ Tom Perumean contributed to this report.

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