The Arizona State football team had its final practice of the spring on Thursday, and for the first time, multiple players had the honor of wearing Pat Tillman’s No. 42 jersey.
Corner Osahon Irabor, safety Aldon Darby, linebacker Chris Young and defensive end Will Sutton, all defenders, wore the green camouflaged jersey during practice. It was the third consecutive practice wearing the jersey for Sutton. Darby had the jersey during one practice in October, but lost it before the next practice.
“It was definitely a proud moment for me,” Irabor said of the moment he opened his locker and saw the PT42 jersey. “Everything that Pat Tillman stood for, he is Sun Devil football to us. He’s iconic, and to wear this jersey means everything to us.”
Coach Todd Graham surprised many when he allowed Darby to wear the jersey in the fall, saying it was an honor that had to be earned. Sutton became the second Sun Devil to receive the honor last week, and he has kept that honor through the Maroon and Gold scrimmage and now through the end of spring practice.
“It’s not just that we’re going to put it on the best players,” Graham said. “It’s a national champion mentality with the Pat Tillman standard, on the field, off the field, in the classroom and in the community.
“We’re trying to create peer pressure and have people wanting that jersey,” Graham said. “I think that jersey means a lot to them. Those guys were excited today, and we’re going to do that year-round…I told them, if we can come out here at practice and those jersey are dominating the scenery out here, we’ll have a chance to accomplish our goals.”
One of the biggest concerns about this Sun Devil team coming in to spring camp was the secondary. However, questions might have been answered today, with the secondary being the only position group to receive two Tillman jerseys.
“Me and Darby are the two players coming back, but I think the questions were validated, you know any time you have two unknown guys coming in” Irabor said. “I don’t want to be too quick to say the secondary is all right. That’s not the mentality we want to have. We have to keep working hard to be the number one secondary in the country.”
Irabor talked humbly about the importance of the jersey and what it means for the players who received it.
“You have to stay in this jersey now that you have it,” Irabor said. “With everything that Pat Tillman stood for and with Pat’s Run, you definitely don’t want to let down his legacy. This is a jersey I’m never going to give up.”