PHOENIX - Pat Tillman, a former NFL player killed while serving as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan, was promoted posthumously from specialist to corporal, an Army spokeswoman said Thursday.
“The Army always notes that rank and promotion are not a reward of what was done well, but a recognition that you have the potential to do more,’’ said Army spokeswoman Martha Rudd. “This promotion is essentially saying this he would have been a fine leader.’’
Tillman, who walked away from a three-year, $3.6 million contract offer from the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army in 2002, was killed April 22 in Afghanistan when his patrol was ambushed near the Afghan-Pakistani border.
Tillman died near Sperah, a village about 25 miles southwest of a U.S. base at Khost.
The promotion for Tillman was lateral, Rudd said, and will not affect any benefits his family receives. Both ranks are E4, or the fourth rank available for enlisted soldiers.
Although Tillman never publicly offered reasons for his decision, several friends have said the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks affected him deeply.
Tillman was the first NFL player killed in combat since Buffalo offensive tackle Bob Kalsu died in the Vietnam War in July 1970. Nineteen NFL players were killed in World War II.
On Thursday, Tillman was also remembered by Tennessee Titans kicker Joe Nedney - his former Cardinals teammate.
A visit to Fort Campbell was an emotional experience for Nedney as he and the Titans made their annual caravan stop to the Army post on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line. While there, Nedney and a half-dozen offensive linemen signed autographs for soldiers and their families.
Nedney said Tillman’s death hurt him deeply because he had been friends with Tillman and his family for years.
The Cardinals have said they will retire Tillman’s No. 40 and name the plaza surrounding the team’s new stadium in suburban Glendale the “Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza.’’