Pat Tillman
Soldier who gave up NFL career
and was killed in Afghanistan

He could have been counted among the great figures in professional sports, but instead, Pat Tillman's name will be recorded as a soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice for a cause far more serious than any game.

After the September 11 attacks inspired his resolve, NFL football player Pat Tillman, a safety for the Arizona Cardinals, announced that he was giving up a three-year, $3.6 million contract to join the U.S. Army. His decision came as a shock to a society that reveres both athletes and the millions of dollars they are paid. Tillman, who was 27 and recently married, had been a star player for Arizona State and had already impressed many in the sports world when he turned down a $9 million offer from the St. Louis Rams because of his loyalty to his Arizona team.

He went through boot camp and qualified for the Army Rangers, an elite special forces unit. Some friends speculate that the combination of the September 11 attacks and the age cut-off for the Rangers were the major reasons for the timing of Tillman's enlistment. His younger brother Kevin, an infielder with the Cleveland Indians organization, joined up at the same time.

Tillman was killed in April while serving in Afghanistan. This month, the Washington Post revealed that he died in a tragic episode of friendly fire, when another Ranger platoon mistook Tillman's group for Taliban insurgents who were attacking U.S. forces. "In sports we have a tendency to overuse terms like courage and bravery and heroes, and then someone like Pat Tillman comes along and reminds us what those terms really mean," Cardinals vice president Michael Bidwill, quoted on CNN, said.

Nominated by member daveCbowman:
Pat Tillman, NFL player who gave up a $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to serve his country by joining the U.S. military after the 9/11 attack. He was killed while on combat patrol in Afghanistan. For me, he is the epitome of honor, duty, integrity and sacrifice.

Nominated by member jporter:
While there are many brave men and women making incredible sacrifices, Pat Tillman represents the best side of our country. Among American contenders for the title of most inspiring person of the year, he ranks up there for me.

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