U.S. Marine petitions to retire Pat Tillman's number across NFL

Posted at 6:07 PM, Dec 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-14 00:37:08-05

A U.S. Marine moved by the courageous American story of Pat Tillman has made it one of his goals to make sure no other NFL player wears his number.

Every American’s life changed on September 11, 2001. For Sean Wilson, his life hasn’t stopped changing since that day.

“It’s September 2001 to present day,” said Sean.

Sean’s father, John “Mookie” Wilson, was one of the New York City firefighters on 9/11. The injuries John sustained led to him retiring from the department earlier than he’d like.

Sean’s Uncle, Lt. Gerard “Roddy” McGibbon, was also a firefighter among the 9/11 debris.

In January, he died from cancer related to the World Trade Center attacks.

The Never Forget Project, which works to support families of the FDNY affected by the 9/11 attacks, reports at least 44 first responders to 9/11 have died from cancer.

“Twenty years after the fact and the repercussions are still being felt,” said Sean.

Inspired by his family, Sean joined the U.S. Marines in 2018. He is currently training in Japan spreading the story of another hero – Pat Tillman.

”He put country ahead of himself,” said Sean.

The ASU linebacker helped the Sun Devils go undefeated in 1996 and go to the Rose Bowl game.

Tillman went on to win Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year.

In 1998, Tillman was drafted by the Cardinals and, in 2000, he set a new team record for number of tackles.

A year later, Tillman showed loyalty to his team by turning down a contract with the St. Louis Rams to stay with the Cardinals.

Following 9/11, Tillman turned down an over-$3-million contract with the Cardinals to enlist as an Army Ranger.

While serving in Afghanistan in 2004, Tillman was killed by friendly fire while deployed.

“Some people look up to Superman or Batman. Since I was a kid, Pat Tillman was always a superhero of mine, an ordinary man performing extraordinary things,” said Wilson.

This year, Sean started a petition aimed to retire Tillman’s number, across the entire National Football League.

The more than 57,000 signatures come in part from links to the petition, which have been placed at landmarks across the globe.

Some prominent spots include New York, Washington, D.C., Arizona, and even the summit of Mt. Fuji in Japan.

Amid all of Wilson's efforts, he still hasn’t heard from the NFL.

In addition to emails and various other requests for meetings, Sean says he sends a “snail-mail” letter every Monday.

Still, no reply from the NFL.

Wilson is hoping another 20,000 signatures may catch the attention of NFL officials, so Tillman’s story can be shared for years to come.

“The goal is to have an unknown person walk into a stadium and see that 40 hanging in the rafters, that story of Pat Tillman has to be told,” he said.