Army Ranger Pat Tillman is forever remembered for his decision to leave behind a multimillion dollar professional football contract to serve in the military in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

In 2002, Tillman stepped aside from his role as a starting defensive back with the Arizona Cardinals and enlisted. Tillman eventually deployed to Afghanistan, where he was killed on April 22, 2004, in a friendly fire incident. He was 27 years old.

Now, there is a movement to have Tillman’s jersey number, 40, memorialized and retired from the NFL altogether.

“To date, we have just over 81,000 signatures,” Sean Wilson, a Marine veteran leading the campaign, told Military Times in an email. “The growth of this movement has been phenomenal. We have campaigned from the streets of New York City to the streets of Tokyo, Japan.”

Wilson said the petition, which launched in 2021, has also been sent to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The next benchmark for the campaign will be reaching 150,000 signatures, he added.

“2024 will mark 20 years since Pat Tillman’s death, and we believe this is a great way to honor a great man,” Wilson said.

Today, the Pat Tillman Foundation — founded in 2004 by Tillman’s friends and family — continues to provide academic scholarships and development opportunities to service members, veterans and their spouses.

Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.

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