Every year before football practice begins at Leland High, the players are ushered into a video room to watch a documentary about their program's most famous alum -- Pat Tillman, the football star who died eight years ago in military combat in Afghanistan after walking away from NFL riches to join the elite Army Rangers in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
They call it Pat Tillman Day.
"One of my responsibilities as the football coach at Leland High School," coach Mike Carrozzo said, "is that Pat Tillman's legacy is never forgotten."
Wednesday, a special guest joined the varsity, junior varsity and freshman players and coaches to watch the ESPN SportsCentury documentary, Tillman's dad, Pat Tillman Sr.
Introduced by Carrozzo as a man who knew Tillman better than anyone, Pat Tillman Sr. sat off to the side while the nearly hourlong video played on a big screen.
He then took a few questions from the players and coaches before he left.
Pat Tillman Sr. told the players that Tillman would have been a good "businessman."
He humbly corrected a comment in the documentary in which one speaker, former Leland baseball coach Scot Gillis, said there was some debate about which parent gave Tillman and his two younger brothers their athletic genes.
"I never said my kids got my athletic ability," Pat Tillman Sr. said.
Before he departed, Pat Tillman Sr. had one final message for the players: Make
For the players, the experience won't soon be forgotten.
"It was an honor to see him, to take his time to come down here after all that's happened," said sophomore Nick Faultner, a junior varsity player.
"It really meant a lot that he came back here," added junior Christian Newkirk, who plays on the varsity team.
This year's Pat Tillman Day isn't the only tribute the program will make to the player who led the Chargers to a Central Coast Section championship in 1993.
On Aug. 31, Leland will play host to its first Pat Tillman Legacy Classic, a season-opening game against Castro Valley.
The team has invited Tillman's former teammates and family to the game that Carrozzo said is an appreciation of Tillman's story.
"We don't know who is going to end up in town," Carrozzo said. "We're trying to make sure we can accommodate a lot of people."
Leland is planning a pregame ceremony before the varsity game kicks off.