Tillman was killed April 22 in Afghanistan

Updated: September 9, 2004, 1:35 AM ET
Associated Press

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Phoenix Coyotes center Mike Ricci announced Wednesday that he will wear No. 40 next season to honor deceased NFL player Pat Tillman.

Tillman, 27, left the Arizona Cardinals and a multimillion-dollar contract in May 2002 to join the U.S. Army Rangers. He was killed last April 22 in Afghanistan, the first NFL player to die in combat since the Vietnam War.

"When I heard his story, it really touched me," Ricci said after donning his new Coyotes jersey at a news conference at Glendale Arena. "This is a way to pay tribute to what he's done."

Ricci, 32, spent the last seven seasons with the San Jose Sharks and was the team's captain last year. He said he met Tillman a couple of times in San Jose, which was Tillman's hometown, and was impressed by him.

After Ricci signed a two-year contract with Phoenix as a free agent on July 9, he said he contacted Tillman's brother-in-law to see if he could get approval to wear No. 40 for the Coyotes.

Coyotes officials said some of the proceeds from the future sale of replica Ricci jerseys will benefit the Pat Tillman Foundation.

Players on all 32 NFL teams will wear a helmet decal bearing Tillman's No. 40 in games of the second week this season, while Cardinals players will wear it all season.

Tillman, who was converted from linebacker to safety in the pros, wore No. 42 at Arizona State from 1994-97 and the school is retiring that number on Nov. 13.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press