Pat Tillman, K.I.A.

U.S. Army Ranger and Ex-NFL Player Pat Tillman Killed in Afghanistan

Pat Tillman, a former NFL player who swapped a glamorous football career to enlist in the U.S. Army, has been killed in action in Afghanistan, ABCNEWS has learned.

The 27-year-old former football player was killed in direct action during a firefight in eastern Afghanistan Thursday, Pentagon sources told ABCNEWS.

A former member of the Arizona Cardinals, Tillman, along with his brother Kevin, enrolled with the U.S. Army Rangers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

According to a Pentagon source, Tillman was killed in action when his Rangers patrol was attacked by small arms fire and mortars during a coordinated ambush in eastern Afghanistan.

One enemy combatant was killed, and Tillman was the only U.S. soldier killed during the ambush, said Pentagon sources. His brother, Kevin, is in the same platoon.

Last year, the brothers were awarded an Arthur Ashe Courage Award meant for individuals whose contributions transcend sports. The award was accepted by their younger brother, Richard, while the brothers were away.

Tillman, an unrestricted free agent, traded a $3.6 million, three-year contract with the Cardinals for approximately $18,000 a year in the military. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Tillman was an exceptional student with a 3.84 grade point average through college and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in marketing.

The Tillman family has been notified, according to a Pentagon source.

Sad news indeed. (Via Command Post, which has several retrospective links) dubs Tillman “A True Hero” and has several features on this story and its own report of the news.

Update: Spoons has an excellent suggestion.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Zygote says:

    I hope the NFL draft is a little more sedate this weekend. I could do without all the references to commitment, sacrifice and valor when talking about these college kids looking to cash a paycheck.
    Tillman showed us all what those words really mean.

  2. Dave says: is right. This guy was a true hero, giving up all that he did to serve his country, then giving his life in that service.

  3. Abe says:


    The two made quite a sacrifice
    By joining the Army’s elite
    The motto, “Rangers Lead The Way”
    Now, for one is bittersweet.

    They both walked from professions
    And put it All on the front line
    To do their Duty to their Country
    For, Freedoms of yours and mine.

    He lost his Brother to the enemy
    In an ambush firefight
    The Ranger Creed is what He lived by
    And He believed in what was Right.

    He said, his Grandpa was at “Pearl”
    But, felt He hadn’t done His part
    So, after Nine Eleven
    He knew what to do, down in His heart.

    He made the Sacrifice, Supreme
    And He surely gave His all
    And in that Army, up in Heaven
    You can bet He’s standing Proud and Tall.

    Del “Abe” Jones
    24 April 2004

  4. Joshua Normand says:

    Yes, we need to honor Pat Tillman and his kind.

  5. gail says:

    I know nothing of football and never heard of Pat Tillman before this past weekend, but if ever there was a hero and a saint all rolled up in one — this humble and courageous young man fits the bill. His parents, family and friends must have been truly blessed to have known him. I feel honored to have heard his name and story. God has already blessed his soul.

  6. SFC Beckwith, Army Engineer says:

    I was immensely impressed when Pat left the NFL and joined the Army. Man was I proud! I wanted to meet this guy that sacrificed it all to follow the “Call”. Such an uncommon act these days. It can only be explained as “EXCEPTIONAL” when a human being can achieve what Pat did and still not become so corrupted by that success that you forget about the bigger picture.

    Jesus left all the pleasures of heaven to come to Earth’s battleground and lay His life down for mankind. Even God’s only Son was not spared, but gave His life willingly that we could be free. Father, bless the family and friends of this warrior, and all the other warriors who has also given their lives. Bless those who continue to sacrificially serve. Amen

  7. Joseph Pastore says:

    It would be entirely appropriate and fitting for The NFL to retire Pat Tillman’s number along with that of Bob Kalsu (the only NFL player killed in Vietnam) and all 19 NFL players who were killed in WWII. It would befit his amazing selflessness to see the other NFL players who made the ultimate sacrifice also remembered in this way. The effect of seeing these retired numbers posted in every NFL stadium could not be overstated, perhaps also accompanied by a tributary message such as: “In memory of all who have made the ultimate sacrifice and all who serve in the defense of our nation.” Especially in view of the enormous public reach of The NFL, this will help to ensure that these honored heroes will be appropriately recognized as not only bigger and more important than the game, but are never to be forgotten or taken for granted as we give thanks for their courage and sacrifice.
    With humble gratitude,
    Joseph Pastore, Flushing, NY

  8. James Joyner says:

    That’d be a lot of numbers, Joseph! That would only leave 78 to choose from and teams have 54 active players and a 6 man practice squad.