|Thursday, May 23
Updated: May 28, 1:46 PM ET
Tillman to serve three-year term in Army
By Len Pasquarelli
Always a player intent on doing things his own way, Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman literally will march to a different drummer now, with the four-year veteran on Thursday turning his back on his NFL career to enlist in the U.S. Army.
Tillman, 25, will serve a three-year term. An unrestricted free agent, he did not generate much interest in the open market, but Tillman had a standing contract offer to return to the Cardinals.
Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis said Tillman wants to go through boot camp and join the elite Rangers program with younger brother Kevin, who spent last year with the Cleveland Indians' organization.
"This is very serious with Pat," McGinnis told the Associated Press. "It's very personal, and I honor that. I honor the integrity of that. It was not a snap decision he woke up and made yesterday. This has been an ongoing process, and he feels very strongly about it."
The former Arizona State standout started 39 games at strong safety for the Cardinals in three seasons, including 28 starts the past two years. In 60 appearances overall, Tillman recorded 331 tackles, three interceptions, 16 passes defensed and 2 ½ sacks.
A linebacker in college, and the Pacific-10's defensive player of the year as a senior in 1997, Tillman was selected by the Cardinals in the seventh round of the '98 draft. His transition to safety was not necessarily a smooth one at first, but he eventually became comfortable at the position, and started 10 games as a rookie.
His best NFL season was in 2000, when Tillman started all 16 games, and collected 145 tackles. He appeared in and started 12 games last season and had 83 tackles.
Last summer, Tillman turned down the opportunity to sign a five-year, $9 million offer sheet with the St. Louis Rams as a restricted free agent.
There were a few opportunities to sign elsewhere this spring, but agent Frank Bauer told ESPN.com last week that his client had shunned all proposals.
"He told me to quit worrying so much about him," Bauer said. "He said he had a definite blueprint for his life, everything mapped out, and that things would be fine."
Tillman was recently married and honeymooned in Bora Bora, telling Bauer before he left that they would settle the issue of his NFL future when he returned.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.