Although Tillman never played for a service academy during his collegiate years, he will forever be remembered as an outstanding college football player and patriot. During his senior year at Arizona State, he was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. Drafted to the Arizona Cardinals in 1998, Tillman eventually turned down a three-year, $3.6 million contract to enroll in the Army in 2002, less than a year after the Sept. 11 attacks. A little less than five months after graduating Ranger School, Tillman was killed by "friendly fire" in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart medals.
We salute you
This Memorial Day weekend, millions of Americans will be barbecuing and celebrating the long weekend, and perhaps, forgetting the true meaning of what this special holiday is all about: honoring those Americans who have died in war. Army, Navy and Air Force have all produced some great athletes — too many to list here — but these 10 athletes stand out in the world of college football. We honor them, as well as all of those who have served this country, with eternal gratitude and respect. — Lisa Horne
Glenn "Mr. Outside" Davis, RB, Army (left); Felix "Doc" Blanchard, RB, Army
Davis: Played halfback for the Black Knights and was nicknamed "Mr. Outside" to his counterpart on the team, Doc "Mr. Inside" Blanchard. Davis was part of the Army teams that went undefeated from 1944-46. Davis won the Maxwell Award in 1944, the Heisman Trophy in 1946 and the AP Male Athlete of the Year honor in 1946. To this day, Davis holds the record for the most yards per carry in one season, 11.5 yards. Davis died March 9, 2005. Blanchard: Won the Heisman and Maxwell Award in 1945. During Army's three-year undefeated run, he played fullback, linebacker, punter and placekicker, amassed 1,908 yards and 38 TDs. Blanchard was selected third overall in the 1946 NFL draft by the Steelers, but he instead embarked on a military career that was highlighted by flying 113 missions in the Vietnam War. He was also honored by the Air Force for Commendation of Bravery and retired as a colonel. Blanchard died April 19, 2009.
Roger Staubach, QB, Navy
Staubach won the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award in 1963, his junior year. He was the field general of the Midshipmen when they broke Notre Dame's 43-game rivalry winning streak in 1963 — it would be 44 years later before Navy beat the Irish again. Staubach's feats were legendary — he set a school record with 4,253 yards of total offense and volunteered for a tour of duty in Vietnam as part of his five-year service commitment. Staubach later went on to become of the greatest quarterbacks in Dallas Cowboys history — he won two Super Bowls — and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981.
Napoleon McCallum, RB, Navy
A two-time All-American, McCallum set an NCAA record with 7,172 all-purpose yards and holds the career rushing record at Navy with 4,179 yards. McCallum later went on to play for the Los Angeles Raiders (above) after fulfilling his five-year commitment to the Navy. In 1994, during a "Monday Night Football" contest against the San Francisco 49ers, he suffered a horrific dislocation of his knee — amputation of his leg was a possibility if surgery was not successful. Although he recovered, his NFL career was over. McCallum was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
Pete Dawkins, RB, Army
As a child, Dawkins battled polio that left his spine curved, a testament to his toughness. In his senior year (1958) at West Point — the last year Army had an undefeated football season — this team captain won the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award, was a unanimous All-American, a Rhodes scholar and president of his senior class. After graduating from West Point, Dawkins earned two degrees at Oxford University and eventually a doctorate at Princeton University. Dawkins' service to his country is reflected by his honors: the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars for Valor, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Dawkins was the youngest-ever brigadier general on active duty at age 43.
Christian Cagle, RB, Army
Cagle was a halfback for Army from 1926-29, an All-American his final three years. Because he had secretly wed in 1928 (an academy violation), Cagle was forced to resign in 1930 and never graduated from the academy. Cagle was the team's captain in 1929 and was known for at times eschewing a helmet. Cagle was featured on the Sept. 23, 1929 issue of Time Magazine (above). Five years later, he co-founded the Touchdown Club of New York. He tragically died at 37 years old after being found unconscious at the bottom of a New York subway's stairs. Cagle was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.
Joe Bellino, RB/KR, Navy
Bellino did it all on the field, winning both the Maxwell Award and Heisman Trophy in 1960. Bellino was considered a halfback, but he also played in the quarterback, receiver, punter and the kick/punt returner positions. During his senior year, Bellino averaged 47.1 yards per punt, rushed for more than 800 yards and caught three touchdown passes. In 1961, Bellino was drafted by the Boston Patriots (above) and played for three seasons as a punt returner. He retired with the rank of captain after serving his country for 28 years.
Ricky Dobbs, QB, Navy
Dobbs broke the single-season rushing touchdown record by a quarterback (previously held by Tim Tebow) when he ran for 27 touchdowns. Tough as they come, Dobbs played six games in his junior season with a broken knee cap. In the 2009 Texas Bowl against Missouri, Dobbs recorded three rushing touchdowns and one passing and accounted for a combined 296 yards. He was named the game's Most Valuable Player. Dobbs has been called one of the greatest passing quarterbacks in the triple-option era. His personal goal is to become president of the United States in 2040.
J.P. Blecksmith, QB, Navy
During the 2001 Army-Navy game, Blecksmith completed 3 of 4 passes, returned two kickoffs and caught one pass. In 2003, Blecksmith was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, United States Marines Corps, and was deployed to Iraq on Sept. 10, 2004. Blecksmith had two personal missions: to be the best platoon leader and to bring his men home safely. He succeeded but lost his life doing so. Only two months after being deployed, Blecksmith was mortally wounded by small arms fire and became the first American officer to die in Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq. Blecksmith was 24 years old and received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star posthumously.