Motivated by Tillman, Ex-Roommate Off to Iraq

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A former NFL player who joined the Marines and was motivated by his college roommate, Pat Tillman, who died in Afghanistan, was heading for the war in Iraq on Tuesday night.

Lance Cpl. Jeremy Staat, a former defensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers and St. Louis Rams who had been playing Arena Football, was one of 300 Marines in the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment being deployed from Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii. The unit is expected to be in Iraq for seven months.

"The way I look at it, we're spreading freedom, and you have to support the troops and you have to support the war," Staat, 29, told KITV in Honolulu on Tuesday as he prepared to leave from Hawaii. "You can't just tell some Marine who just lost his buddy that we supported you but not the war, because in that case you're basically saying that Marine, his buddy, just died for nothing. We're one team."

Tillman, who played defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals, was killed by friendly fire near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in April 2004.

Staat said he felt compelled to join the military after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but Tillman, who was his roommate at Arizona State, advised him to stay with pro football until he qualified for retirement benefits. "I felt there is more to life than just a game," Staat said, adding that Tillman's death helped motivate him to enlist.

Staat played for the Steelers from 1998 to 2000, and played two games with the Rams in 2003. He was playing for the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League before being put on the league's suspended list. To enlist, the 6-foot-5 Staat said last year he dropped from 310 to 260 pounds.

-- From News Services

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