Hundreds of people gathered to remember a man so moved by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that he walked away from a multimillion-dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals to join the U.S. Army.
Tillman, 27, died April 22 in a firefight near the Pakistan border as he was leading his team to help comrades caught in an ambush.
"Pat wanted to be known as more than a professional athlete," said Chad Schwartz, a longtime friend. "He wanted to be an inspiration. He wanted to change people and to change his country for the better."
Schwartz said Tillman had "morals that could not be compromised," echoing speaker after speaker who described Tillman's integrity and selflessness.
The Army gave few details of how Tillman was killed, but said he was fatally shot while fighting "without regard for his personal safety."
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Hall of Famer Gene Upshaw, executive director of the players' union, were among those who attended Monday's public memorial at a municipal rose garden here. Police said 2,000 people had gathered before the ceremony began.
"The underlying thing was his courage and selflessness on the athletic field, in his community and now as a soldier," Tagliabue said before the afternoon service.
Last week, the military posthumously promoted Tillman, a member of the Army's elite Ranger unit since 2002, from specialist to corporal. He also was awarded a Purple Heart and Silver Star.
Tillman attended San Jose's Leland High School and was drafted by the Cardinals after starring at Arizona State University. He became the Cardinals' starting safety and broke the franchise record for tackles in 2000.
Though he never publicly offered reasons for his decision to join the Army, several friends have said the terrorist attacks affected him deeply.
"He wasn't interested in headlines," Upshaw said. "But he was interested in giving everything for a cause, whatever the cause may be."
Tillman came from a military family, reports CBS News Correspondent Manuel Gallegus. Not only is his brother an Army Ranger, his grandfather and uncles fought in Pearl Harbor.
Tillman was assigned to A Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and was based at Fort Lewis, Wash.
He was one of about 100 U.S. soldiers to have been killed in Afghanistan since the United States invaded in 2001. That made him the first National Football League player killed in combat since Buffalo offensive tackle Bob Kalsu died in the Vietnam War. Nineteen NFL players were killed in World War II.
"I came to pay my respects," said Joel Cascio, a San Jose resident who served two years in the Navy during the mid-1960s. "He put his career aside. That's a courageous thing to do, no matter what walk of life."