Football players have often been idolized and even considered heroes by generations of Americans.
Four football players served in the army and were killed in action. For paying the ultimate sacrifices, they can be ranked among America’s greatest heroes.
Al Blozis won the Amateur Athletic Union and National Collegiate Athletic Association indoor and outdoor shooting titles for three years in a row, 1940-42, while attending Georgetown University . In 2015, he was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.
In 1942, Blozis switched from athletics to football. He was drafted into the National Football League and played an offensive tackle for the New York Giants in 1942 and 1943.
In December 1943, he was appointed second lieutenant in the army, but took leave in early 1944 to play three more games with the Giants.
In 1944, Blozis left for France with the 28th Infantry Division. On January 31, 1945, while roaming enemy lines in the Vosges Mountains in France, he was shot dead by enemy fire.
Jack Lummus was a baseball center fielder at Baylor University from 1937 to 1940. He was considered the best center fielder to ever play at Baylor.
In 1941, he played nine games as a late rookie for the New York Giants.
On January 30, 1942, he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve. In October 1942, he was appointed second lieutenant.
After serving at Camp Pendleton, Calif., He was deployed to the Western Pacific, assigned to V Amphibious Corps.
Lummus was part of the first wave of troops to land on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. On March 8, 1945, he led his rifle platoon in fierce fighting at the northern end of the island.
The lieutenant single-handedly knocked out three enemy strongholds that had prevented his platoon from reaching their objective. He was killed in the assault after stepping on an enemy landmine. For his worth, Lummus was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Don Steinbrunner was selected in the 1953 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns as an offensive tackle. He played in the 1953 NFL Championship game at Briggs Stadium in Detroit, but the Browns lost 17-16 to the Detroit Lions.
In 1966, Steinbrunner, then a major, was deployed to Vietnam as an airplane navigator. On July 20, 1967, his C-123 Provider aircraft was shot down by enemy fire, killing him and four other crew members.
Pat Tillman was Arizona State University linebacker in the mid-1990s. In 1998, he was drafted by the NFL and taken over by the Arizona Cardinals, playing the safety post.
In 2002, Tillman turned down a $ 3.6 million contract for an additional three years with the Cardinals to enlist in the military.
He participated in the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, then graduated from the Ranger School later in the year.
In 2004, he was deployed to Afghanistan, and on April 22 of the same year, he was killed by friendly fire.
Editor’s Note: Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who have served in the U.S. military.