— SunDevilEquipment (@SunDevilEquip) September 4, 2013
Arizona State has always embraced the legacy of Pat Tillman, one of its most celebrated alumni. This year, the Sun Devils are taking it to a new level while also educating current players about the linebacker-turned-pro-turned-Army Ranger.
Before each home game, players had always walked through the Tillman Tunnel. But the tunnel has gotten a makeover, complete with inspirational signage, a PT-42 "The Heart of a Champion" logo and a photo veil of Tillman the players will run through to take the field.
As players wait to take the field, there is also a television in the tunnel that will show highlights of Tillman's time at ASU.
"The way Pat lived -- the Sun Devil Way -- is something we teach our team about every day," coach Todd Graham said. "Now the final thing they will see before taking the field is the embodiment of everything he stood for -- and everything we hope to emulate and accomplish."
Eight months after the Sept. 11 attacks, Tillman turned down a $3.6 million contract offer from the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army. He became a Ranger but was killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan in 2004.
Three area companies contributed to the funding of the tunnel's redesign, and it was unveiled Wednesday to the team's senior leadership group, who stood in the tunnel and watched Tillman highlights.
Arizona State opens its season Thursday night against Sacramento State. The Sun Devils enter the year on the cusp of the Top 25 after closing out last season with three straight wins, including a victory over Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
"Pat's principles are such an important part of everything we do," said Steve Patterson, ASU's vice president for university athletics. "The values he represented and the tradition he built upon helped bridge the gap between the field and the community, so it is fitting that this tunnel bears his legacy."