Mary Tillman stepped onto the Leland High football field. The same football field where her son Pat was a star player almost 20 years ago. Head Football coach Mike Carrozzo presented a ring with Pat Tillman's name on it. And then she tossed a coin into the air to kickoff the first ever Pat Tillman Legacy Classic Football game.
"I was very touched," Tillman said with a smile. "I mean the fact they named the stadium after him. It's all very good. With all the sadness and the negativity surrounding it all. This is a real positive thing. So it makes us all very happy."
Leland High School has never forgotten Pat Tillman's sacrifice. After playing at Leland, Tillman went to Arizona State and then onto the NFL where he played for the Arizona Cardinals. He became a national hero when he replaced his football uniform with a United States Army Ranger one in the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Two years after entering the army, Tillman was killed during a friendly fire incident. His family was devastated.
"We're finally in a place now that we can enjoy the good memories and not have them be so heavy. And so that's a good thing. It's very positive," Mary Tillman said.
Pat Tillman continues to inspire the football players and the students at Leland High. Coach Carrozzo says it's up to them to carry on his legacy.
"There's a lot that we can teach them about character and determination, toughness and belief and passion which is a big word in Pat's life and patriotism...but we want these kids to be themselves," Carrozzo said.
And if Pat Tillman could see all of this. The tribute. All the honors. His mother says he would be ecstatic.
"He loved Leland. He loved playing for Leland. His high school years were really special to him and so I know he would be really flattered," Tillman said.
Leland lost to Castro Valley 22-21.
But if Pat Tillman taught us anything, it's not about the game. It's about who you are and what you bring everyday that matters.