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7 NFL Players Who Served In The Post-9/11 Military
Throughout the history of the National Football League, there have been athletes who both play football and served their country. In fact, some of these World War II and Vietnam veterans were even named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The current generation of Iraq and Afghanistan service member-athletes are no exception.
In honor of Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, here are seven NFL players who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In this Dec. 20, 1998, file photo, Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman celebrates after tackling New Orleans Saints running back Lamar Smith for a loss in the third quarter of an NFL football game in Tempe, Ariz.AP Photo by Roy Dabner
In 1998, Tillman was drafted to the Arizona Cardinals after playing linebacker at Arizona State University. Out of loyalty to the Cardinals, he turned down a $9 million offer from the St. Louis Rams. But in May 2002, Tillman gave up a multi-million dollar contract to enlist in the Army after 9/11. He was assigned to the 2nd Ranger Battalion and deployed to Afghanistan. On April 22, 2004, he was reported to have been killed by enemy combatants, but an investigation later revealed it to have been friendly fire. After his death, the Pat Tillman Foundation was established, which helps veterans and their spouses through academic scholarships.
U.S. Navy Ensign Joe Cardona, a long snapper with the New England Patriots, speaks with reporters in the locker room at Gillette Stadium following an NFL football practice, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass.AP Photo by Steven Senne
A 2015 rookie with the New England Patriots, Joe Cardona is the only current NFL member who serves. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy, starting as a long snapper there all four years. He was a fifth-round draft pick for the Patriots, and became the fourth player ever drafted specifically as a long snapper. During the season, he works one day a week at the Naval Academy Preparatory School. When his season ended in January 2016, he set off for Norfolk, Virginia, to train before reporting to his station in Bath, Maine, with the USS Zumwalt.
Staff Sgt. Nate Boyer listens to a speaker at at the National Football Foundation Press Conference on December 10, 2013 at the Waldorf Astoria, New York City, NY.Army photo by Sgt. Mikki L. Sprenkle
Boyer enlisted in March 2005 and served as a Green Beret. After a number of tours, he switched from active duty to the reserves, and enrolled at the University of Texas. He walked on to the football team and became the starting long snapper. Boyer went undrafted, but spent the 2015 preseason with the Seattle Seahawks. Though they had to release him for the regular season and he is currently a free agent, he has found other pursuits to fill his time in the form of his “Conquering Kili” project.
Ahmad Hall's profile from the United States Marine Corps recruiting website.Marine Corps photo
Hall enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1998, serving as a field radio operator. During a tour in Afghanistan, he earned the rank of sergeant. After leaving the military in 2002, he walked onto the University of Texas football team, where he played for three years as a fullback. The Tennessee TItans signed him as a free agent in 2006. In his rookie season, Hall played in 14 games. He would fill the role of lead blocker in the Titans backfield for six seasons.
Jeremy Staat greets a veteran inside the Base Exchange March 1, 2012 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman
Staat attended Arizona State University alongside Pat Tillman, where he played as a defensive end. He was drafted in 1998 to the Pittsburgh Steelers and started 11 games in 1999. He then joined the Seahawks, but was cut in 2001 and began contemplating joining Tillman in the military. Tillman, however, talked Staat into staying with the NFL long enough to garner a pension with the St. Louis Rams in 2003. He left football shortly after, and in 2006, joined the Marine Corps and served with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines for seven months in Iraq.
Alejandro Villanueva was offensive captain for the Army Black Knights as a senior while playing Wide Receiver.U.S. Military Academy photo
Villanueva originally played for West Point as a wide receiver, offensive lineman, and defensive end. He went undrafted through 2010, but had an unsuccessful tryout with the Cincinnati Bengals. In the meantime, Villanueva spent four years as an active member of the Army Rangers, serving three tours in Afghanistan. He reached the rank of captain and received a Bronze Star award. After a brief stint with the Philadelphia Eagles, he was signed to the Pittsburgh Steelers practice team. After the team’s starting tackle was injured, Villanueva started 10 games in 2015.
In this Aug. 14, 2015, file photo, St. Louis Rams wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez runs the ball against the Oakland Raiders during the second half of an NFL preseason football game in Oakland, Calif. AP Photo by Tony Avelar
Former Army Sgt. Rodriguez served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. While serving, he earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart during the Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan, which left him wounded with bullet fragments in his shoulder and shrapnel in his legs and neck. He recovered, and after promising a fallen comrade that he would play football, Rodriguez enrolled at Clemson University in 2010 and play 37 games with them. Rodriguez earned a tryout in 2015 with the St. Louis Rams, and despite ultimately getting cut, he was thankful to coach Jeff Fischer for the opportunity, according to ESPN.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect Jeremy Staat as an NFL player and post-9/11 veteran (2/5/2016; 2:15 pm).
NASA is reportedly investigating one of its astronauts in a case that appears to involve the first allegations of criminal activity from space.
Hackers could have breached US bioterrorism defenses for years, records show. We'll never know if they did
The Department of Homeland Security stored sensitive data from the nation's bioterrorism defense program on an insecure website where it was vulnerable to attacks by hackers for over a decade, according to government documents reviewed by The Los Angeles Times.
The data included the locations of at least some BioWatch air samplers, which are installed at subway stations and other public locations in more than 30 U.S. cities and are designed to detect anthrax or other airborne biological weapons, Homeland Security officials confirmed. It also included the results of tests for possible pathogens, a list of biological agents that could be detected and response plans that would be put in place in the event of an attack.
The information — housed on a dot-org website run by a private contractor — has been moved behind a secure federal government firewall, and the website was shut down in May. But Homeland Security officials acknowledge they do not know whether hackers ever gained access to the data.
The State Department doesn't really care if its human rights training for partner security forces is working or not
By law, the United States is required to promote "human rights and fundamental freedoms" when it trains foreign militaries. So it makes sense that if the U.S. government is going to spend billions on foreign security assistance every year, it should probably systematically track whether that human rights training is actually having an impact or not, right?
Apparently not. According to a new audit from the Government Accountability Office, both the Departments of Defense and State "have not assessed the effectiveness of human rights training for foreign security forces" — and while the Pentagon agreed to establish a process to do so, State simply can't be bothered.
A Kansas VA hospital police supervisor reported 'dangerous' deficiencies among his officers. Now he says he faced retaliation
The Kansas City VA Medical Center is still dealing with the fallout of a violent confrontation last year between one of its police officers and a patient, with the Kansas City Police Department launching a homicide investigation.
And now Topeka's VA hospital is dealing with an internal dispute between leaders of its Veterans Affairs police force that raises new questions about how the agency nationwide treats patients — and the officers who report misconduct by colleagues.
A New Mexico woman was charged Friday in the robbery and homicide of a Marine Corps veteran from Belen late last month after allegedly watching her boyfriend kill the man and torch his car to hide evidence.