Oct 23

Junior safety Alden Darby was given the ultimate honor any Sun Devil football player could be given on Tuesday—the opportunity to wear No. 42 on the practice field.

The number 42 reflects everything the Arizona State football program stands for—a character of integrity while being smart, disciplined, and blue collar tough with a passionate work ethic in all aspects of life. It’s about playing from the heart, developing men of giving hearts and winning in the game of life. These are all characteristics of the late Pat Tillman, the last Sun Devil to wear the number 42 on the gridiron for Arizona State.

Tillman played linebacker for ASU during a span from 1994-97 before being drafted by the Arizona Cardinals. During his collegiate career he was a team champion in 1996, conference player of the year in 1997, an academic All-American and an All-American.

The Sept. 11 attacks influenced Tillman’s decision to enlist in the U.S. Army, where he served several tours in combat prior to his death in the mountains of Afghanistan. His number 42 has since been retired at Arizona State.

Darby is apparently succeeding in the game of life, and Coach Graham has noticed. That’s why he was chosen to be the first player to don the No. 42 jersey for a week of practice, starting a movement that Graham hopes will turn into an ASU tradition.

“You look at a guy like Pat Tillman and you look at how he competed on the field and off the field—in the classroom, in practice,” Darby said. “That’s a great guy you want to model your program behind

That is exactly what Arizona State has done, too. PT42 symbols are present throughout the university, from portraits of his playing days to full-scale paintings on walls, while his name and pictures are plastered across Sun Devil Stadium facilities. Tillman represented every characteristic of a true champion, something head coach Todd Graham hopes all of his players become, and something Darby strives every day to become.

“(He was) a guy that competed with character, integrity, poise, and passion,” Darby voiced of Tillman. Apparently the two possess much of the same uniqueness.

“It was an honor. I felt really proud of myself,” Darby explained on wearing No. 42. “Like I said, I’m not satisfied. I wasn’t working towards it because it wasn’t even on my mind. I forgot all about it. I was just being me. I have it on, now my job is to keep it.”

Darby was simply being himself, but evidently being himself resembles a true champion of life, Pat Tillman.

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