Arizona lawmakers and members of the football community lauded former NFL defensive back Pat Tillman (search) Friday as an American hero after learning that he was killed while serving as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan.

Dave McGinnis, former Cardinals head coach: "I have known Pat since 1998 and I don't know if I have ever met a more dedicated person in my lifetime. It was an honor to be his friend and coach and I will miss him."

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.: "Pat Tillman is a great American hero in the truest sense. He had already given up so much, including an incredible football career and loving family, to fight for his country in the war on terrorism. His patriotism and courage are an inspiration and we are grateful for his ultimate sacrifice. My deepest sympathies are with his family."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.: "I am heartbroken today by the news of Pat Tillman's death. The tragic loss of this extraordinary young man will seem a heavy blow to our nation's morale, as it is surely a grievous injury to his loved ones. Many American families have suffered the same terrible sacrifice that Pat's family must now bear, and the patriotism that their loved ones' exemplified is as fine and compelling as Pat's.

But there is in Pat Tillman's example, in his unexpected choice of duty to his country over the riches and other comforts of celebrity, and in his humility, such an inspiration to all of us to reclaim the essential public-spiritedness of Americans that many of us, in low moments, had worried was no longer our common distinguishing trait.

When Pat made his choice to leave the NFL and became an Army Ranger, he declined requests for interviews because he viewed his decision as no more patriotic than that of his less fortunate, less renowned countrymen who loved our country enough to volunteer to defend her in a time of peril. It is that first lesson of patriotism that we should reaffirm in our own lives as we celebrate the courageous life and mourn the heroic death of this most honorable American."

Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.: "Pat Tillman exemplified the sacrifice, selflessness, and service of the U.S. military. Nowadays, genuine role models in professional sports are few and far between, but Tillman proved that there are still heroes in sports.

My thoughts and prayers are with Pat's friends and family, and with the friends and family of all soldiers who have given their lives defending our freedom."