Pat Tillman, who died in Afghanistan in 2004 after giving up a professional football career to join the U.S. Army Rangers, is among 12 former players and two coaches elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
This year’s class, presented by the National Football Foundation, also includes Desmond Howard, who won the Heisman Trophy at the University of Michigan, and former coaches Barry Alvarez of the University of Wisconsin and Gene Stallings of the University of Alabama.
Tillman, who played linebacker at Arizona State University, was selected as the Pacific-10 Conference’s defensive player of the year as a senior in 1997. He was picked by the Arizona Cardinals in that year’s National Football League draft and played four seasons before enlisting in the Army after the 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S.
Tillman was killed by friendly fire on April 22, 2004. The incident was investigated by a congressional committee after the military and White House waited to give details of his death to his family and the public. Army reports initially indicated that Tillman died while fighting enemies in a ravine, an act for which he was awarded the Silver Star.
Howard, 40, won the Heisman Trophy as college football’s top player in 1991. A wide receiver and kick returner, Howard led the Big Ten Conference in scoring that season with 23 touchdowns and 138 points.
“I’m tremendously honored and humbled by this,” Howard, who works as a broadcaster for ESPN, said during a news conference in New York. “Football is the ultimate team sport and I feel like everyone I played with at Michigan I bring them along with me to the Hall of Fame.”
Howard played in the NFL from 1992 through 2002. When the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl after the 1997 season, he became the first special-teams player to be voted the championship game’s Most Valuable Player.
Former Louisiana State running back Jerry Stovall also was elected to the Hall of Fame, along with Dennis Byrd (North Carolina State), Ronnie Caveness (Arkansas), Ray Childress (Texas A&M), Randy Cross (UCLA), Sam Cunningham (Southern California), Mark Herrman (Purdue), Clarkston Hines (Duke), Chet Moeller (Navy) and Alfred Williams (Colorado).
The group will be inducted on Dec. 7, 2010, and enshrined at the Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana, in 2011.