PHOENIX (April 16, 2005) -- Four months before he was killed in Afghanistan, Pat Tillman was told that he could opt out of extending his military service because NFL clubs were interested in him.
Tillman chose to stay in the Army Rangers, and on April 22, 2004, he was shot by a fellow U.S. soldier who mistakenly fired on a friendly Afghan soldier in Tillman's unit. Other U.S. soldiers then fired in the same direction.
Tillman had an exceptional college football career and was a starter for the Arizona Cardinals. But he was largely unkown outside Arizona until he walked away from a $1.2 million-a-year contract to join the Army after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In December 2003, when Tillman was back home from his initial tour overseas, in Iraq, his agent had begun fielding calls from teams suddenly interested in acquiring his client for the 2004 season.
"And they all said the same thing: 'Frank, this kid can get out of it. He's already served in a war. Just file his discharge papers,' " the agent, Frank Bauer, told The Arizona Republic.
He urged Tillman to consider seeking a discharge.
"He said, 'No, I'm going to stay. I owe them three years. I'll do one more tour,' " Bauer said. "And that's the last I ever heard from Pat."
Tillman's decision "may be remarkable to everybody else," said brother-in-law Alex Garwood, director of the Pat Tillman Foundation. "But not if you knew Pat."
The Defense Department has completed an investigation into Tillman's death that was aimed at concerns raised about whether the Army held back information, but its findings won't be made public, Lt. Col. Pamela Hart, an Army spokeswoman at the Pentagon, said this past week.
Tillman's family got a briefing on the inquiry recently, said Lt. Col. Hans Bush, chief of public affairs for the Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.
The Associated Press News Service
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