PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Another former Arizona Cardinals player is training to serve our country, and he says Pat Tillman was his inspiration to enlist. Army Specialist Jimmy Legree, 28, was a cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals just five years ago. Today, he’s at Fort Sill in Oklahoma for basic combat training.
[WATCH: “Putting service over self.”]
“I went a different route by going to college and playing football, but once that window was closed I reverted back to my Plan A, which was joining the military,” Legree told the Fort Sill Tribune.
Legree told the U.S. Army it was his childhood dream to serve in the military, but he also was one of the few to make it playing professional football. But just like Pat Tillman, Legree’s passion for our country never faded. “I think he’d be like, ‘Hell yeah! That guy’s a champ.’ He’d be 100% behind him,” said Jeremy Staat, who played football with Tillman at Arizona State University before they both played in the NFL.
Tillman decided to enlist in the Army after 9/11. He was killed while on patrol in the Khost Province of Afghanistan in April 2004. He was 27 years old.
A year later, Staat became U.S. Marine, serving in Iraq. “It was such being a part of something bigger. And above ourselves. Putting service over self,” he said.
Staat said he knows of fewer than 15 former NFL players who went on to serve the United States military over the past decade. He said it goes from a life of luxury to a one in the barracks — a tough transition very few will ever make. Staat commends Legree for making that sacrifice.
“It really motivated me,” he said. “[It] makes me excited to see there are still individuals ready to serve and willing to put their life on the line for this country. You don’t see enough of that today.”
Legree told the Army, which shared his story on its Facebook page, that it was Tillman’s passion for the game and his love for his country that helped encourage him to join. Staat said Tillman would be proud.
“Here we are, you know, 15 plus years after Pat’s death, and he’s still motivating and inspiring people to go in and serve and be the best that they can be,” Staat said.
Staat also said one of the hardest parts about joining the military after the NFL is physically being older and going through training. Staat was 29 at the time. Legree is 28. Most of the recruits are in their late teens and early 20s.
Legree, whose battery graduates in February, old the Army he is already thinking about a long military career.