Former NFL star Pat Tillman, who left professional football to join the Army after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, has reportedly been killed in combat.
Tillman, who played four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, was killed while on active duty in Afghanistan, according to CNN.
No details regarding Tillman's death were immediately available.
Tillman walked away from a $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals in the spring of 2002 to join his brother as an Army Ranger. He made the move quietly, staging no press conference, granting no interviews and issuing no public remarks about his decision. The move was a personal one for Tillman, who, according to those around him, was deeply moved by the attacks of 9-11. He wanted to "pay something back," Cardinals defensive coordinator Larry Marmie told reporters at the time.
"Pat has very deep and true convictions," head coach Dave McGinnis told reporters shortly after news of the decision broke. "This has been an ongoing process, and he feels very strongly about it."
The decision and the way in which it was executed were applauded by many, among them Sports Illustrated reporter Tim Layden, who called Tillman "the antithesis of everything associated with the modern professional athlete."
Tillman completed basic training in July 2002 and quickly progressed through more advanced training, becoming a Ranger with the second battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Lewis, Washington, by December of that year. Tillman was dispatched abroad with the 75th in the spring of 2003.
Tillman was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals with the 226th pick of the 1998 draft (that year's draft only went to 241 selections). The unlikely star was named Arizona's starting strong safety five months later, and set a team record for tackles in 2000. He had planned to return to the Cardinals after serving his country.
Tillman leaves behind his wife, Marie Tillman.