Former NFL player and U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman is widely considered a symbol of patriotism and heroism. Ten years after his death, The 2014 ESPYS will commemorate his legacy with the Pat Tillman Award for Service. The annual award will honor an individual with a strong connection to sports that has served others in a way that echoes the legacy of Tillman.
Tillman placed his NFL career on hold to enlist in the U.S. Army with his brother, committing to a three-year term. They were assigned to the second battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Lewis, Washington, and served tours in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 as well as in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2004. On the evening of April 22, 2004, Tillman’s unit was ambushed as it traveled through eastern Afghanistan. His heroic efforts to provide cover for fellow soldiers as they escaped from the canyon led to his untimely and tragic death via fratricide.
The inaugural recipient of the Pat Tillman Award for Service will be Josh Sweeney, a Purple Heart recipient and a member of the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team that won the gold medal at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Sweeney became a bilateral amputee after being injured by an improvised explosive device in October of 2009 while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan. An able-bodied hockey player throughout high school, the war veteran was immediately drawn to sled hockey during his rehabilitation and worked his way to becoming a forward for the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team. Sweeney scored the game-winning goal in the 2014 gold-medal game against Russia, leading Team USA to its second straight gold at the Paralympics.
“Through the Jimmy V Perseverance Award and the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which Pat and Kevin Tillman won in 2003, the ESPYS have always made a point of celebrating the human spirit,” said Connor Schell, vice president, ESPN Films and Original Entertainment, who oversees the ESPYS. “We’re proud to honor Josh Sweeney with the first annual Pat Tillman Award for Service, which pays tribute to the lasting legacy of selflessness, leadership and sacrifice that Pat represented, and we look forward to this new tradition at the ESPYS.”
The Pat Tillman Award for Service will be presented at The 2014 ESPYS in conjunction with the Pat Tillman Foundation, a national leader in providing educational support and resources to veterans, active-duty service members and their spouses.
“Pat was deeply committed to a life of service both in and out of uniform as a teammate and soldier,” said Marie Tillman, president and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation. “Sgt. Joshua Sweeney embodies the selfless spirit of service that has defined this generation of veterans for more than a decade. In Pat’s name, we’re proud to honor Josh for his incredible achievements leading Team USA, but especially for his dedication to inspire and empower others as leaders for our country.”
The 2014 ESPYS presented by Capital One, hosted by Drake, will be televised live Wednesday, July 16, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN from Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles. For additional ESPYS news and information, please follow the official ESPYS Twitter handle: @ESPYS. Tickets to The 2014 ESPYS are available for public purchase at AXS.com.