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    20 Years After Death, Pat Tillman Still Inspires Those Who Knew Him Well — And Many He Never Met

    20 Years After Death, Pat Tillman Still Inspires Those Who Knew Him Well — And Many He Never Met

    Leland High led 35-0 at halftime and coach Terry Hardtke figured enough was enough.

    Pat Tillman had scored four touchdowns on offense and was dominating defensively in a Central Coast Section playoff game against Andrew Hill. Hardtke told Tillman he was done for the day.

    “I said, ‘No offense, no defense,'” Hardtke recalled. “He gave me this sorrowful look.”

    When the second half began, to Hardtke's surprise, Tillman was on the field to receive the kickoff. Tillman ran it back for his fifth touchdown of the game on the seventh time he touched the ball. While teammates celebrated, Tillman made a beeline for Hardtke.

    “He said, ‘Coach, you said nothing about special teams,'” Hardtke said.

    Hardtke confiscated Tillman's helmet and shoulder pads. Tillman followed orders and sat out the rest of a 66-14 win en route to an eventual CCS title.

    To Hardtke it was quintessential Tillman, doing everything that was asked of him and then doing even more.

    “I don't look at that as defying what I said,” Hardtke said. “I look at it as his approach to the way he lived his life and the way he played the game.”

    It was 20 years ago, on April 22, 2004, that Tillman was killed at age 27 by friendly fire in a firefight in Spera, , as part of the U.S. Second Ranger Battalion. Tillman's story, and the cover-up that followed over the circumstances of his death, became national news.

    Tillman and his younger…

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