It’s difficult to slow down Alex Garwood when he starts talking about his brother-in-law Pat Tillman.

The 20th Pat’s Run to benefit the Pat Tillman Foundation is only five days away and two weeks (April 22) marks the 20th anniversary of Tillman’s death from friendly fire in Afghanistan. Still, what he represents remains present in the lives of those close to him.

Garwood’s wife Christine is the sister of Marie Tillman, Pat’s widow and Garwood notes, “I always just say, ‘Pat and I married sisters,’ which makes me his brother-in-law and, more importantly, offered me the opportunity to earn his friendship.”

The co-founder of the foundation and the annual run, Garwood said on the Pro Football Hall of Fame radio show last week on SiriusXM NFL radio, “My wife and I are very fortunate. We’ve got three sons and our oldest (Ryan) is 23, our middle guy (Adam) is 21 and our youngest (Scott) is 18. So I’m not super great at math, but I have two boys that Pat met and one that he never met. So something for us is kind of a selfish thing is how do we keep Pat’s memory alive. How do we share who he was with our boys?

“He’s been ever-present in their lives and it’s just something that we work on, quite frankly, daily. And then how do you then translate that from a small little world of just our small family, but how do we translate that into a foundation. How do we share it with 30,000 of our closest friends at Pat’s Run next weekend? It’s an interesting balance.”

Striking a balance

Asked about that balance and how it was manifest as his sons grew up, Garwood said, “One of the challenges that we have; you notice when I talk about Pat, I don’t say Pat Tillman because to me and to my sons, he was just Uncle Pat and the way we talk about that. And I don’t dismiss any of it because I get that it’s the Pat Tillman Foundation and I get that Pat Tillman has a display in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I get that. But we talk more about the individual and the closer contact. The reason I bring that up is there’s a balance for my sons and for my wife and I as we use him as an example for how to live right.

“Because Pat was far from perfect. I think he gets held up sometimes in this great way. But it’s also great to be able to say to our sons, ‘Look, Pat was great because he investigated and thought and asked questions and then made a decision based on convictions and then did what he thought was right. Wasn’t always perfect.’ So it’s great to be able to hold him (up) as an example, but know that he was fallible and I think that is so important because if you’re striving for perfection and you miss you can’t be disappointed. If you’re striving for greatness and fall slightly short, well, that’s awesome. So I really give Pat a lot of credit for that and that it was a wonderful example but not unattainable. It was a wonderful example but not something that was too perfect.”

Garwood becomes even more passionate when he talks about Tillman’s values and how they are kept alive.

“Just because you’re fast, it might make you a great wide receiver, but it doesn’t necessarily make you a great human,” Garwood said. “I do think we hold (up) Pat because he was a phenomenal athlete and a crazy good football player and an amazing athlete. He played the hardest game on the planet and played it at an exceptional level. With all of that, he’s this human that marries his high-school sweetheart, was always loyal to her, includes her in all decisions. They were a team. He stays with his local team instead of signing for millions. He does all that and oh, and by the way, continues to push himself in the offseason, runs a marathon the next year, does a half Ironman. Who does that? Pat did. He was going to graduate school and getting his master’s in history. Doesn’t tell anyone. He just does all of those things.”

The Tillman Scholars

“To segue that with our foundation; our attempt is to carry forward Pat’s legacy. How do you do that? It’s incredibly complicated, but we’re doing that through 900 men and women who are called Tillman Scholars and they are men and women who have served or are spouses of those who have served. Some are currently serving and I will tell you this: when you spend time with a Tillman Scholar, most of it is inspiring. Most of it makes you want to do more. It’s also intimidating as hell because they are so incredible and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘I sell software for a living.’ But they are so incredible and those men and women range across the board of all services, all branches, all walks of life and some of them are doctors. You’ve got your Navy Seal who was a corpsman who got tired of watching his guys die and heal and is now a doctor. You have folks like that.

“But you also have men and women that are first in their family to go get their undergraduate degree and are going back to the tough areas where they grew up and are making a difference. We like to say when you have the opportunity to spend time with a Tillman Scholar, ask them not about themselves because they’re incredibly humble, but you ask a Tillman Scholar about the person that they are standing next to and the Tillman Scholar brags about the next Tillman Scholar and I promise you, you will be inspired to do and to act much like our friend Pat.”

To become inspired, visit The Pat Tillman Foundation website.

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Story originally appeared on Cards Wire

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