Tillman's announcement was on his terms

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
4:18
PM ET
There was a sense that something was happening.

At Pat Tillman's wedding in May 2002, his agent, Frank Bauer, asked Tillman's former Arizona State teammate and close friend Jeremy Staat why Tillman still hadn't signed the $3.6 million offer from the Arizona Cardinals. Staat didn't know, but Bauer wanted him to find out.

Tillman
"I said, 'Hey man, what's going on with this contract? What's going to go on? Are you going to sign this thing? Frank's starting to get worried about you,'" Staat remembered. "And he just said, 'You know, let's not worry about that right now. It's my wedding. I don't want to talk business. I want to spend time with my family and [wife] Marie,' and I said, 'OK.'

"He just said, 'I have some things working right now.' And I just said, 'Whatever.' I got him a Guinness and I got my Bud Light and off we went."

What no one knew was that Tillman had already decided to enlist in the Army.

According to an excerpt from Marie Tillman's book "The Letter," Pat had decided to enlist before their nuptials but didn't tell his family until after their honeymoon, weeks before he was to leave for basic training. Tillman was able to keep his decision to quit football and join the Army under wraps by telling people his way.

Tillman informed the Arizona Cardinals and team president Michael Bidwill he was leaving on the same day, Bidwill said. Tillman asked that they announce it, because he didn't want to address the media.

When it was time to tell former ASU athletic trainer Perry Edinger, who is also a co-founder of Pat's Run, Tillman walked into Edinger's office and said he wanted to go to lunch.

Edinger was busy that day and tried to reschedule.

"Let's go to lunch," Tillman insisted.

"I said, 'OK, let's go to lunch,'" Edinger recalled.

"You embraced it because he embraced it," Edinger said.

Staat didn't hear from Tillman, but he called him soon after finding out.

"[I] said, 'Hey man, you stole my idea,' and he said, 'Naw, it's been something I've been thinking about and wanting to do,'" Staat said. "He had just received his retirement [pension eligibility] and he said it's either now or never. He had every intention of coming back to the NFL and playing. I think it would've been a great comeback had he come back."

Arizona State assistant athletic director Doug Tammaro was in his office when former Cardinals media relations director Paul Jensen called and asked for Tammaro and ASU's head of media relations, Mark Brand, to get on the call together.

"He said, 'Your boy Tilly ... not coming back,'" Tammaro remembered.

"Where's he going?" they responded.

"The Army," Jensen answered.

"I just remember going, 'It makes sense,'" Tammaro said.

Josh Weinfuss

ESPN Arizona Cardinals reporter

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