At Arizona State University, Staat became friends with free safety Pat Tillman, and was a roommate with Tillman’s brother for a semester. In the 1998 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Staat with the 41st overall pick. Following his NFL career, he was playing with the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League. During the season, he learned Tillman had been killed in action in Afghanistan, in what was later revealed to be a “friendly fire” incident. The loss of his friend further reduced his interest in football. He would throw his helmet during the middle of practice and storm off the field, leaving the Avengers and professional football forever.
Staat, like Tillman’s family, was dismayed by the United States Army’s handling of the story surrounding Tillman’s death; himself noting that “The fog around his death was thickened by lies.” However, after spending time deciding on his own future, he opted to follow his deceased friend and teammate’s example and join the military; but instead of the Army, he joined the United States Marine Corps.