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Pat’s Run started as gathering of friends and family who wanted to celebrate Tillman’s life not long after his death. The 4.2-mile run has since ballooned into a massive event of 30,000 runners from all over the country _ 49 states this past spring _ hitting the desert to honor the man and raise money for the foundation in his name.

A fan of Tillman’s when he played at Arizona State and later with the Cardinals _ he once shook Tillman’s hand and said “good game” at ASU _ Davidson was an enthusiastic Pat’s Run participant the first two years, enjoying the chance to pay tribute to someone he respected.

Then, in 2007, he suffered a stroke.

Doctors said he’d never walk again, never be free of a catheter. They weren’t sure if he’d ever regain his sight.

The man they call Shelly proved them wrong.

Months after his stroke, Davidson, not wanting to miss the race, was pushed around the course by his daughter, Jennifer Goins. A year later, he walked part of the way, using his chair for support.

In 2009, Davidson made even more progress.

Even after struggling through the middle portion of the race, Davidson entered Arizona State’s stadium and finished the final 42 yards _ in honor of Tillman’s ASU jersey number _ on foot.

With members of ASU’s football team screaming encouragement, Davidson, leaning hard on his crutches, trudged the final few yards and over the finish line. Spectators shed tears. Family and friends did the same when a video of his feat was posted on the Internet.

“I felt like he left the Cardinals to go take care of Osama bin Laden and his journey was cut short, and I wanted to keep just keep going,” said Davidson, who spent a year overseas in the Vietnam War during his two active years in the Army. “Even though his was cut short, my journey was to go on and walk and I’m not going to stop until I’m walking.”

Davidson plans to do Pat’s Run again next year, hopefully without his crutches.

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The sentences are simple, about what you’d expect from a fourth grader. But even adults would have a hard time summing up how many people feel about Tillman so succinctly.

Pat Tillman’s name should have marked everybody’s heart the day he died. Everybody in the world should remember Pat’s famous name. He was so inspirational to everyone.” — Justine.

The response was just what Brian Webster had in mind when assigned his students to write an essay about Tillman.

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