A genuine All-America hero and sports champ. -- A paragon roll model.
Former NFL Player Killed in Afghanistan
Apr 23, 12:29 PM (ET)
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said a formal announcement was expected later in the day. Spokesmen at the Pentagon and U.S. Army declined comment.
There were no immediate details how Tillman died. He was 27.
A military official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that a soldier had been killed in action in Afghanistan Thursday, but could not confirm that the soldier was Tillman.
Some members of the Army's elite Ranger units were taking part in the hunt for al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in southeastern Afghanistan, the military official said.
"Pat Tillman was an inspiration both on and off the football field," White House spokesman Taylor Gross said. "As with all who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror, his family is in the thoughts and prayers of President and Mrs. Bush."
He made the decision after returning from his honeymoon with his wife, Marie.
Tillman's brother, Kevin, a former minor league baseball prospect in the Cleveland Indians' organization, also joined the Rangers and served in the Middle East. They committed to three-year stints in the Army.
Tillman's agent, Frank Bauer, has called him a deep and clear thinker who has never valued material things.
In 2001, Tillman turned down a $9 million, five-year offer sheet from the Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams out of loyalty to the Cardinals, and by joining the Army, he passed on millions more from the team.
Tillman turned aside interview requests after joining the Army. In December, during a trip home, he made a surprise visit to his Cardinal teammates.
It was not immediately clear when Tillman went to Afghanistan.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Tillman was distinguished by his intelligence and appetite for rugged play. As an undersized linebacker at Arizona State, he was the Pac-10's defensive player of the year in 1997.
He set a franchise record with 224 tackles in 2000 and warmed up for last year's training camp by competing in a 70.2-mile triathlon in June.
Tillman carried a 3.84 grade point average through college and graduated with high honors in 3 1/2 academic years with a degree in marketing.
"You don't find guys that have that combination of being as bright and as tough as him," Phil Snow, who coached Tillman as Arizona State's defensive coordinator, said in 2002. "This guy could go live in a foxhole for a year by himself with no food."
Tillman and his brother Kevin last year won the Arthur Ashe Courage award at the 11th annual ESPY Awards.
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