Flags sailed and people remembered as a record crowd turned out for a charity run to honor the legacy of one of Arizona’s most famous athletes.
A record crowd of almost 13,000 took part in Pat’s Run, a 4.2-mile walk/run Saturday around Tempe Town Lake.
The event, in its third year, raised money and celebrated former Arizona State University Sun Devil and Arizona Cardinal football player Pat Tillman, who was killed by friendly fire while on patrol with his Ranger battalion unit in Afghanistan.
“Pat Tillman was a great athlete, but a better American,” said Army veteran Gordon Cross.
The crowds didn’t bother Cross and he said the run was a perfect opportunity to pay tribute to other fallen soldiers.
“We brought first-year soldiers with us to show them how important this is,” Cross said.
ASU Athletics Department spokesman Doug Tammaro said about 12,800 runners and walkers participated. The crowd around Sun Devil Stadium included another 750 volunteers and about 2,000 spectators.
Tammaro said the event went off without a hitch, although the crowds at the finish line have started to outgrow Frank Kush Field.
A giant red Tillman jersey draped over a six-story parking structure could be an indicator that the run won’t go away anytime soon.
“We need to make adjustments and be prepared if this thing continues to grow,” Tammaro said.
The run began at Packard Drive and ended on the 42-yard line (Tillman’s jersey
with Arizona State) inside Sun Devil Stadium.
A live band with booths with free giveaways greeted participants after the run.
Current Sun Devil football players also signed autographs and mingled with fans.
Brad Gwilliam of Gilbert has participated all three years and said the run was a good family event with activities for adults and kids.
“This was a great run with great people,” Gwilliam said.
ASU gymnastics junior Josie Hancock appreciated the celebration of a fellow athlete.
“This brings people together,” Hancock said. “It’s really powerful,” she said.