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Apr 9, 2005
Colorado, USA
SAN DIEGO - A former college teammate of Pat Tillman is following in his footsteps, leaving a career in professional football to join the military.

Pfc. Jeremy Staat, a former defensive lineman who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the St. Louis Rams, graduated from the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Friday.

Enlisting "is probably one of the best decisions I've made in my life," Staat, 29, told The Associated Press after the ceremony.

Tillman, who played defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals, was killed by friendly fire near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in April 2004. The Defense Department is investigating allegations of a cover-up, including the Army's failure to tell Tillman's family for several weeks that he had been killed by gunfire from his fellow Army Rangers, not by enemy fire as they initially were told.

Staat said he was felt compelled to join the military after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but Tillman, who was his roommate at Arizona State, advised him to stay with professional football until he qualified for retirement benefits.

"He told me, 'You're a good player, you need to get good play.' Then four months later, at his wedding, I learn he's going to the Army," Staat said. "I joked to him, 'You stole my idea,' and he said it had been in the process for a while."

Tillman's death gave him "more motivation" to enlist, Staat said. "I should have been there for him."

Tillman gave up a $1.2 million NFL contract to join the Army Rangers.

Staat played for the Steelers from 1998 to 2000, and played two games with the Rams in 2003. He was playing for the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League before being put on the league's suspended list.

"I never felt right about making the money I was making," he said. "We pay millions of dollars to professional athletes and entertainers, yet we pay military service people pennies to a dollar, and they're the ones risking their lives."

To enlist, the 6-foot-5 player said he dropped from 310 to 260 pounds. He said three months of boot camp training gave him a deeper appreciation for team camaraderie.

"It's about looking out for your fellow soldier, and being ready to take a bullet for someone," he said.

Gotta tell ya something guys, but these gung ho/protector of our rights kind of guys who join up all spirited and full of piss an vinegar are usually the first ones who get it...

U have to remain focused and calm during firefights/engagements... U dont and u end up in a black bag....

But I do take my hat off in salute of ANYONE who joins ANY military organization to defend the rights of the innocent and the pursuit of democracy...

(Check Dans avatar...)
I have heard, quite often from my dad about those types being the first to cower during combat also. The loud-mouth "I'm going to kill 'em all" types. The respect comes from his willingness to give up the easy life to enter combat, to see what his country is standing for ... battling terror ...

Interestingly enough, this reminds me of Winston Churchill - who demoted himself to "British Tommy" to serve in the frontline trenches during World War I! Got to have a lot of admiration for that man ...

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