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Tom Hauck / Getty Images file Ex-NFL player Tillman killed in Afghanistan Former Cardinals safety gave up big salary to join Army Rangers Pat Tillman turned down a $3.6 million contract offer from the Arizona Cardinals in 2002 to join the Army in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Updated: 3:27 p.m. ET April 23, 2004WASHINGTON - Pat Tillman, who gave up a lucrative contract with the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League to join the Army Rangers, was killed in action in Afghanistan, military officials said Friday.

Tillman, 27, who turned down a three-year, $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals to enlist in the Army in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was first deployed to Iraq in March 2003 with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, based at Fort Lewis, Wash. It was not immediately clear when he was sent to Afghanistan.

Tillman’s battalion was involved in Operation Mountain Storm in southeastern Afghanistan, part of the U.S. campaign against fighters of the al-Qaida terror network and the former Taliban government along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, military officials told NBC News.

Tillman’s death was confirmed by the House Armed Services Committee, whose members were notified by the Defense Department, The Arizona Republic reported on its Web site.

Other officials told The Associated Press that a formal announcement was expected later in the day. Spokesmen at the Defense Department and the Army would not comment.

White House praises Tillman

Lt. Col. Matt Beevers, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Kabul, said only that a soldier died after a firefight with anti-coalition militia forces about 25 miles southwest of a U.S. military base at Khost, which has been the scene of frequent attacks.

Two other U.S. soldiers on the combat patrol were injured, and an Afghan soldier fighting alongside the Americans was killed. Overall, 110 U.S. soldiers have died, 39 of them in combat, during Operation Enduring Freedom, which began in Afghanistan in late 2001.

Although the military had not officially confirmed Tillman’s death, the White House put out a statement of sympathy that praised Tillman as “an inspiration both on an off the football field.”

Dave McGinnis, Tillman’s former coach with the Cardinals, said he felt both overwhelming sorrow and tremendous pride in Tillman, who “represented all that was good in sports.”

“Pat knew his purpose in life,” McGinnis said. “He proudly walked away from a career in football to a greater calling.”

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in a statement that Tillman “personified all the best values of his country and the NFL. He was an achiever and leader on many levels who always put his team, his community and his country ahead of his personal interests.”

The Republic reported that prominent Arizonans were calling on the Cardinals to name the team’s new stadium, which is currently under construction in Glendale, near Phoenix, in Tillman’s honor.

Friends say 9/11 influenced decision

Tillman played four seasons with the Cardinals before enlisting in the Army in May 2002, which he joined with his younger brother Kevin, who also is a highly regarded athlete, having once been a minor league baseball prospect in the Cleveland Indians’ organization.

Tillman denied requests for media coverage of his enlistment, basic training and ultimate deployments. Army officials said at the time that he wanted no special treatment or attention but wanted to be considered just one of the soldiers doing his duty for his country.

Tillman made his decision to enlist after returning from his honeymoon with his wife, Marie. Several of his friends have said the Sept. 11, attacks influenced his decision.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., noted that Tillman declined to speak publicly about his decision to put his football career on hold.

“He viewed his decision as no more patriotic than that of his less fortunate, less renowned countrymen who loved our country enough to volunteer to defend her in a time of peril,” McCain said in a statement.

Tillman’s agent, Frank Bauer, has called him a deep and clear thinker who never valued material things.

In 2001, Tillman turned down a $9 million, five-year offer sheet from the Super Bowl champions, the St. Louis Rams, out of loyalty to the Cardinals, and by joining the Army, he passed on millions of dollars more from the team.

In December, during a trip home, he made a surprise visit to his teammates with the Cardinals.

“For all the respect and love that all of us have for Pat Tillman and his brother and Marie, for what they did and the sacrifices they made ... believe me, if you have a chance to sit down and talk with them, that respect and that love and admiration increase tenfold,” McGinnis said at the time. “It was a really, really enriching evening.”

Intelligence, toughness

Tillman, who as 5 feet 11 inches tall and 200 pounds was considered undersized for his position, nevertheless distinguished himself by his intelligence and appetite for rugged play.

As a linebacker at Arizona State University, he was the Pacific 10 Conference’s defensive player of the year in 1997. He carried a 3.84 grade-point average and graduated with high honors in 3˝ academic years, earning a degree in marketing. Flags were being flown at half-staff at the college Friday.

Tillman set a Cardinals record with 224 tackles in 2000 and warmed up for last year’s training camp by competing in a 70.2-mile triathlon in June.

“You don’t find guys that have that combination of being as bright and as tough as him,” Phil Snow, who coached Tillman as Arizona State’s defensive coordinator, said in 2002. “This guy could go live in a foxhole for a year by himself with no food.”

The Tillman brothers last year shared the Arthur Ashe Courage award at the 11th annual ESPY Awards, a television program that aired on the ESPN cable sports network.

Briton bets it all on roulette spin, and wins A double-or-nothing wager on Red ‘7’ nets $270,600

Sam Morris / AP Ashley Revell of London speaks about wagering his life's worth on Red 7 at the Plaza Hotel-Casino, Sunday, in Las Vegas. Revell, 32.

Updated: 11:50 a.m. ET April 12, 2004LAS VEGAS - A British man who sold all his possessions, including his clothes, stood in a rented tuxedo on Sunday surrounded by family and friends and bet everything

on a single spin of the roulette wheel.

He won’t go home empty handed.

Ashley Revell, a 32-year-old Londoner, sold all his possessions in March, took $135,300 to the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, did some low-stakes gambling, and then placed everything he had left on “Red.”

The wheel was spun, a crowd of supporters including his Mum and Dad from London went wild, the ball bobbled over the slots and landed on Red ’7’ — and Revell walked away with $270,600.

“It all happened so quickly, it was spinning before I knew it,” Revell said, adding he did not intend to try to double it again. He gave a $600 tip to the croupier and plans to party — and buy some clothes.

“It’s really down to my friends and family and Mum and Dad,” he told Reuters Television. “I knew even if I lost I’d always have a home to go to.”

“I’m still against it,” said his Dad. “He shouldn’t have done it. He’s a naughty boy. I tell my kids they shouldn’t gamble. I’ve got four others and they’re all going to want to go the same way.”

“It’s just brilliant,” said Ashley Hames, a friend from London in Las Vegas for the occasion. “He’s put his neck on the line and got away with it. It’s absolutely great.”

“It bobbled for a second and I just thought, ’Oh no, it’s not going to do it,”’ said another friend, James Frederick. “But it did and I’m made up for him. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”

Asked if he wanted to try his luck again, Revell said: “No that’s it for me. I think he’d like me to do it again, but no that’s it,” gesturing to a casino host. “I don’t want to ride my luck,” he said as the champagne began to flow.

This week, the gambling spirits had seemed against him. He put in a week gambling about $3,000 in a bid to raise his pot.

By Wednesday, he was down $1,000.

Revell, recently a professional gambler, said he decided to take a big plunge while he was still young and had raised the stakes as high as possible, including selling his clothes.

“I like to do things properly,” he said.

Revell said he had planned to have a friend videotape his bet-it-all spin, but Britain’s Sky One television decided it was worth a short reality series, called “Double or Nothing.”

Sky will not pay him, he says, but a crew from Dai4 Films has followed his preparations and covered the spin at the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. It also plans to follow him for a month afterward.