The NFL and USAA, an official NFL Salute to Service partner, have announced the 32 nominees for the tenth annual Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. The award recognizes NFL players, Legends, coaches, personnel and alumni who demonstrate an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community, as nominated by NFL clubs.
Finalists are scheduled to be announced in January and the recipient will be recognized at NFL Honors, a primetime awards special that airs nationally the week of Super Bowl LV.
“The 2020 nominees for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA demonstrate the depth and widespread appreciation and support for the military community across the NFL,” said Tony Wells, USAA Chief Brand Officer and former Marine officer. “During a trying year for all Americans, each of these nominees deserves this moment of special recognition for their passionate support of those who chose to serve. We congratulate these nominees and say thank you to America’s military families.”
NFL Legend Donnie Edwards was last year’s award recipient. Edwards will serve on the award panel and vote to select the 2020 Salute to Service Award recipient.
As the presenting sponsor of the Salute to Service Award, USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other financial services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, will contribute $25,000 in the recipient’s name to the official aid societies representing all five military branches. The NFL will match USA’s contribution of $25,000, which will be donated to the award recipient’s military charity of choice.
The Salute to Service Award is part of the NFL and USAA’s year-round commitment to recognize and honor the military community. Each year, the NFL and its 32 teams come together to honor, empower and connect with members of the military as part of the NFL’s Salute to Service initiative. The league’s year-round military appreciation efforts culminate in November with NFL Salute to Service games and special events honoring and thanking veterans, active duty service members and their families.
Below is a list of the 2020 Salute to Service Award presented by USAA nominees:
Justin Pugh (Offensive Guard)
Justin Pugh is a proud supporter of the military community and has been involved with a military organization called MVP. Justin has supported MVP financially and in person over the years, including wearing cleats dedicated to MVP during the My Cause My Cleats campaign. MVP allows a space for veterans to share their challenges and offers support and resources to veterans. MVP coaches veterans to be proud of their story and experiences and to use what they experienced on the battlefield to empower them through their transition. One of the many reasons Justin supports MVP is that they face mental health challenges head up through a team environment and successfully supports veterans. Justin has been involved in other military community events in Arizona throughout his football career, including military base visits and participating in virtual events that connect back to the military community.
Steve Cannon (Chief Executive Officer)
Cannon's commitment to the military and related causes began with his own personal commitment. Cannon graduated with honors from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1986, was Airborne Ranger-qualified and served as 1st Lieutenant in West Germany during the fall of the Iron Curtain. During his time in the Army, he served five years as an artillery officer. Through Cannon's countless hours of service to multiple military non-profits over the years, his constant "military first" mindset and use of the NFL's platform has provided active duty service members, veterans and military families with first-class experiences and support. In addition to empowering and giving back to the military community, Cannon has played a large role in bringing awareness to the general population on the importance of honoring and recognizing our nation's heroes. Through Cannon's military and professional career, he has consistently found ways to implement programs in service to our military, active duty specifically. Upon joining the Atlanta Falcons organization, he recognized the impact of the NFL platform and challenged the club to be best in class and to become the benchmark franchise in all of professional sports in terms of our military outreach and appreciation. He has set up major trips each spring after the football season that allow him and the team to visit those serving to protect our freedom. Because of Cannon’s efforts, the Atlanta Falcons became the first NFL team to conduct their own USO Tour.
Baltimore Ravens Cheerleaders
Throughout the history of the Ravens Cheerleading program, the squad has continually demonstrated their appreciation for service members, most prominently by touring overseas with the Armed Forces Entertainment company (AFE). The Baltimore Ravens Cheerleaders are the longest-tenured co-ed squad in the NFL. With more than 50 athletes, the squad is comprised of both a dance and stunt team. Over the 23-year history of the program, the Ravens Cheerleaders have participated in 20 overseas tours with the AFE. Approximately 12 members of the team travel to entertain the troops on each tour. Ravens Cheerleaders understand that when on military tours, entertaining the servicemembers and their families is the priority. Their main goal is to show appreciation for the troops and bring patriotism, spirit and enthusiasm to everyone they encounter. Among squad members, it is an honor to be chosen to represent the Ravens on a military tour. In January 2020, a group of Ravens Cheerleaders embarked on a 10-day tour to 10 military bases in Kosovo, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany. The squad performed at each base, ate with the troops, visited children and families, conducted clinics, and hosted autograph and photo sessions. In addition to tours, Ravens Cheerleaders have participated in Honor Flights, welcomed veterans to Washington D.C. as they visited various war memorials and they have supported other Ravens' Salute to Service initiatives.
Harrison Phillips (Defensive Tackle)
Phillips serves those who have served and those who still fight for our country by supporting the local military community in a variety of ways. In 2019, the Bills hosted World War II veterans at a team practice and Phillips — who spent much of the season sidelined with a serious knee injury — spent his afternoon learning from those who were on the frontlines of war. These lessons of character, grit, teamwork and brotherhood were instilled in Phillips at a young age while looking up to his two grandfathers, who both served in the military. “I know that without the sacrifices they made, I wouldn't be the person I am today or in the position to live out my NFL dreams,” said Phillips. “I now find it part of my mission to teach young people — especially kids in my Playmakers Organization — the importance of respecting the military and what these brave people mean to our country.” In early spring 2020, before the pandemic, Harrison visited with several veterans at the local VA Hospital. Phillips has also partnered with WNY Heroes, an agency that serves the local military community. He connected with this group throughout the pandemic and continues to offer his time and resources to assist with fundraising. During the Bills’ 2018 and 2019 training camps, Harrison visited the Community Tent to spend quality time with military families who were in attendance.
Christian McCaffrey (Running Back)
Upon entering the NFL in 2017 following an All-American career at Stanford University, Christian McCaffrey was quick to establish a focal point of his outreach efforts. “I've always had a huge respect for the military,” said Christian. “I have a little bit of military background on my dad's side (NFL Legend Ed McCaffrey), so growing up it's just some of the values instilled in me at a young age. Without the men and women who defend our country, I wouldn't be able to play the game that I love so much.” Through his engagement over the past four seasons, Christian has partnered with military service organizations USO of North Carolina and Veterans Bridge Home in a variety of morale-raising and fundraising efforts. He has also joined forces with team and league partners USAA and Lowe's to support their military outreach initiatives as well. Christian's grassroots efforts are grounded and personal, and his respect for the military drives his efforts. “I want to get involved on the medical side of it for troops that come home, and make sure their healthcare is top of the line. I get treated every day, and those guys deserve the same kind of care when they get back. They deserve a good life when they come back. I'd love to get involved with that in the future.”
Jimmy Graham (Tight End)
The Jimmy Graham Foundation gives back to those who have served — its mission is to provide life changing and impactful experiences through the freedom of flight. To recognize the accomplishments and sacrifices of veterans of all eras and provide flights for unfamiliar and underprivileged youth as an introduction to aviation, Jimmy takes veterans up in the two United States Army helicopters he has restored; a 1957 de Havilland Beaver and 1967 UH1 Iroquois “Huey” helicopter that served as a part of the 170th Assault Helicopter Company. Both aircraft were used during the Vietnam War and are the cornerstone of his giving back to our country. One of Jimmy's favorite events this year was working with a Florida veteran who served in the 170th in Vietnam as a crew chief. It was an honor for Jimmy to hear Vietnam veteran Steve Crawford share his stories from the past and reconnect with a flight in the Huey that was flown during his time with the 170th. The Jimmy Graham Foundation has also partnered with Luna Cafe in Wisconsin to sell the "Huey Blend" coffee, proceeds of which help support his foundation
Jim Turner (Offensive Line Coach)
Jim Turner served in the United States Marine Corps as an infantry officer in Europe, the Middle East and Japan from 1990-94. Turner enlisted at the beginning of the Persian Gulf War. “We were getting ready to go to war,” Turner said. “I felt like it was the right thing to do.” The four years Turner spent serving his country ranks as his proudest accomplishment. “It is the greatest team in the world,” he said. The lessons Turner learned as a Marine help him as an NFL coach. “It taught me selflessness. It taught me total responsibility,” Turner said. “I’m responsible for everything I do, especially the commitment I make. It taught me to lead by example. You lead from the front. You don't ask anybody to do something that you wouldn't do or that you haven't already done.”
Andy Janovich (Fullback)
Throughout his NFL career, Janovich has shown his deep appreciation by honoring members of our armed forces. In 2018 and 2019, he supported Hunting with Soldiers during the My Cause My Cleats campaigns. Hunting with Soldiers was created in 2007 with the mission of getting combat veterans outdoors to give them the opportunity to hunt and fish at no cost to them to heal from PTSD through nature. Janovich donated his cleats to NFL Auction to benefit Hunting with Soldiers. Since joining the Browns this season, Janovich has supported the team's Salute to Service initiatives. His passion for community relations is clearly evident through his participation throughout his career. Janovich joined the Broncos’ 2018 Salute to Service Caravan, where he visited military members and their families at Fort Carson Army Base, and he regularly shows his support for the military through his social media, including helping the NFL and its clubs raise money for the Salute to Service initiative. Although he is new to the Browns, Janovich is excited to work with the USO of Northern Ohio for the Browns’ Salute to Service efforts.
Charlotte Jones (Executive Vice President & Chief Brand Officer)
For the past 31 years, Jerry Jones and his family have owned and operated the Dallas Cowboys with a management style that places just as much emphasis on community leadership as it does on winning the Super Bowl. With the Cowboys organization having enjoyed success, the Jones family feels a strong responsibility to take the visibility, energy and celebrity of the world’s most powerful sports franchise and channel those forces to the bigger purpose of making a difference. Recognized as one of the world’s most generous families, the Joneses enlist the talents, skills and resources of Cowboys players, coaches, cheerleaders and every member of the organization to provide a unique and cutting-edge approach to community outreach. Under the leadership of Charlotte Jones, Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer, the Dallas Cowboys take great pride in honoring our nation's military and veterans during Salute to Service campaigns and at other times throughout the year, across multiple locations — at home in North Texas, on base at Fort Hood, at training camp in California and around the world in partnership with the USO. In 2019, Jones worked with the City of Arlington to bring the National Medal of Honor Museum to Texas and joined the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation board as chairman in 2020. “Building a permanent home for the National Medal of Honor Museum in Arlington ensures that the Foundation will be able to share the stories of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients to the more than 51 million visitors that are warmly welcomed to the region each year,” said Colonel Jack Jacobs. “Putting our roots down and establishing a permanent home for the Museum in Texas, a state that has unmatched ties to the military and military service, will allow us to create an experience that inspires a true strength of character.”
Andrew Beck (Tight End)
Since joining the Broncos, Beck's military outreach has spanned America's Gold Star Families, Buckley Air Force Base, Fort Carson Army Base, TAPS, USO Denver, VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System and Volunteers of America: Colorado. For Beck, the military has been a key part of his life for as long as he remembers; his father Chris, was a colonel in the U.S. Army. After a visit to the local VA Hospital in 2019 to meet veterans receiving medical care, Beck decided to start a program called Beck's Bags, to help veterans in the community. He helped the team host a military care packaging event, where 50 players assisted with assembling 200 care packages for homeless veterans in the community ahead of the holidays. This offseason, Beck was slated to be a featured player on the annual NFL USO Tour, before it was cancelled due to COVID-19. Beck knows firsthand the sacrifices military families make to serve our nation, which is why he's chosen to represent America's Gold Star Families for My Cause My Cleats in each of the past two seasons. Last year, Beck auctioned off his cleats and raised funds to sponsor America's Gold Star Families’ annual 5K Run/1 Mile Walk for Fallen Heroes. This year, Beck will host a design contest for kids served by the non-profit, ultimately choosing one of their designs to showcase on his cleats during the Week 13 My Cause My Cleats game. During his first season with the team, Beck's military outreach reached more than 300 military families.
Eric Hipple (NFL Legend)
Eric's interest in supporting active military and veterans began after he lost his son to suicide, which led Eric down a dark path. After finding clarity and purpose, he began his military outreach to help those that may have had similar transitions. With resilience as the focus, he served as the keynote speaker of the 2009 Department of Defense Suicide Prevention Conference in San Antonio. Since then, his work has focused on improving the mental fitness of active military and veterans in hope that they will have an improved quality of life. Workshops followed with the U.S. Fleet Forces and visiting bases in Europe, the Middle East, the South Pacific and the U.S. In partnership with the Department of Defense, Eric introduced the ‘Real Warrior Campaign’ to NFL Legends and veterans. In coordination with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), Eric recruited Legends to visit military bases to help build the morale of service members. Transition from the military also became a focal point and working with The Eisenhower Center's “After the Impact Program” has allowed Eric to assist in creating a safe place where NFL Legends and veterans could be treated for behavioral symptoms together. Eric conducts trainings and workshops to ensure that veterans are properly educated on their resources and benefits. Eric is currently collaborating with VETLIFE, a veteran owned non-profit to build a peer-to-peer outreach program.
Green Bay Packers
Tom Bakken (Equipment Manager)
Bakken has been with the team since 1994 and is quick to point out his appreciation for the men and women that serve our country and fight for our freedom. Tom's military involvement with the Packers began during the 2001 season. Due to lack of coordination, flyovers were no longer taking place at Lambeau Field during the playing of the national anthem. Knowing the impact and symbolism that flyovers provide for the fans and players, Tom was determined to make them a part of the Packers' opening ceremonies once again. With support from the team, Tom scheduled and coordinated his first flyover at Lambeau Field. Tom was instantly “hired” as the Packers' coordinator of flyovers. Along with his duties as an assistant equipment manager, Tom was now in charge of scheduling and hosting the military members that perform the inspiring and uplifting pre-game spectacle. After the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, and five days after Tom and the team landed back in Green Bay, he took nine Packers players on a military appreciation trip. The group visited members of the United States military stationed in and off the coast of Bahrain, Jordan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Tom always does his best to make sure they feel appreciated for all of the sacrifices that they have made for us.
Hannah and Cal McNair (Ownership)
Supporting service members and their families is an important cause to the McNairs. The Texans started the tradition of honoring all branches of the military through a Salute to Service-themed game held each season, and they donate hundreds of tickets to service members, inviting each branch to present colors on the field and hold a field-sized United States flag. This tradition led to the annual league-wide NFL Salute to Service celebration held in every NFL stadium across the country. In 2019, the McNairs hosted members of the armed forces and their families through the USO at Texans Training Camp where Cal McNair surprised each military member with a Texans Challenge Coin, creating a memorable and meaningful experience for all. Throughout COVID, they have helped provide meals to service members working long hours at testing sites and food distribution locations, sending pizza to keep them going. When members of the military and their families were displaced by Hurricane Laura, the Texans sponsored a big meal for the families staying in Houston. The Lady Texans’ mission is to support the team and the Texans Foundation, with a focus on women, youth and military. Each year, Hannah leads the Texans’ Salute to Service efforts with the Lady Texans, volunteering at events throughout the week, including golf and bowling with troops, serving Thanksgiving meals at the veteran's hospital, and participating in an annual military barbecue where service members get the chance to meet the entire Texans team at a private practice. This tradition invites 200 service members and their family members for lunch at NRG Stadium cooked by two of the Texans’ top tailgate teams.
Brian Decker (Director of Player Development)
Born into a military family in Texas and raised in Kentucky, service was in Brian Decker’s blood. His grandfather served during the Korean War and his dad served in Vietnam. After attending community college for a year and a half, he joined the military, working his way up to lieutenant colonel of the United States Special Forces and serving two tours of duty in Iraq. After graduating from Eastern Kentucky and earning his master's degree from the Naval Postgraduate School, Decker continued to serve — overseeing the talent acquisition strategy for future Green Berets. During his three years as Commander of Special Forces Assessment and Selection, the program saw success that led other organizations — military, business and even sports teams — to want to hear about it. They realized that by focusing solely on performance, they were missing out on the person. Decker consulted with professional organizations of every major sport before the Cleveland Browns eventually brought him in to oversee their player selection process. When the Colts brought in Chris Ballard as their general manager, he added Decker to help with player selection and development. Decker continues to serve and give back by investing in veterans like himself and shining a spotlight on nontraditional ways to bring people in from the military and have them contribute in a valuable way. After 22 years of service, no matter where he goes, in his heart, he's always a soldier.
Sean Karpf (Strength and Conditioning Associate)
Prior to joining the Jacksonville Jaguars as a strength and conditioning associate, Sean Karpf served in the United States Army from 2007-13, where he was a sergeant and squad leader for the 82nd Airborne Division. While serving in Afghanistan, Karpf lost his lower left leg after stepping on a pressure plate on a mission in 2012. He continued to lead his squad despite consistent machinegun fire from Taliban insurgents, prior to being evacuated via helicopter. He would spend more than a year at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center rehabbing his injuries and undergoing more than 20 surgeries. For his bravery and service in defending our country, Karpf was awarded a Purple Heart. Karpf started his journey with the Jaguars as an intern through the Wounded Warrior Project. The program allowed him to take college courses and complete an internship in the local community. Karpf impressed both players and coaches with his positive attitude and incredible work ethic. As Karpf was saying his goodbyes on his last day, he was asked to stay on as a full-time employee on the team's strength staff. He continues to participate in team initiatives that support our local military community. Last year during Salute to Service, Karpf was one of the volunteers who helped put together more than 1,000 care packages for our troops deployed overseas. He also continues to volunteer with Wounded Warrior Project, knowing firsthand how their work can change lives, just like it did for him.
Kansas City Chiefs
Eric Fisher (Left Tackle)
For the past three years, Eric Fisher has worked closely with Reunite the Fight, an organization founded in 2017 in his home state of Michigan. Reunite the Fight was created by a group of Marine combat veterans who made a commitment to reunite annually after leaving the military. Once life began to get in the way, the veterans realized how much they missed the comradery. They decided to create similar reunions for other veterans. Today, Reunite the Fight reconnects veterans with their fellow service members across the country, taking them on hunting and fishing trips. In 2018, the organization helped reconnect more than 200 veterans. Fisher began his work with Reunite the Fight in 2017 by sending the group of veterans gear for a Spartan race that the veterans competed in together. Since then, he's participated in golf tournaments benefiting the non-profit, gifted tickets to veterans and recruited fellow Chiefs to join the mission by being part of different fundraisers and events. Fisher worked with the organization in 2019 to reconnect retired Marine Corps Sergeant Damon Thompson with his fellow Marines. Thompson knew he was meeting Fisher at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, but had no idea he'd be seeing these former United States Marines for the first time in more than a decade. As Fisher continues to make an impact on the field, it is the time he takes off the field to honor the men and women who have sacrificed for our country that will leave a lasting impression on Chiefs Kingdom.
Las Vegas Raiders
Jerry Robinson (NFL Legend)
Just as he was a consistent, reliable performer on the field during his playing career, Jerry Robinson is a constant, steady presence in the community, especially when it comes to honoring military members as a Raiders alumnus. Jerry spent seven seasons with the Raiders after six years with the Philadelphia Eagles. Playing for the Raiders was a dream come true for Robinson, who was born in Santa Rosa, California, where the Raiders once held their summer training camp. Jerry is now equally intent to pay his respects to those who nobly served in the military. In 2018 and again in 2019, Jerry visited with veterans at Yountville Veterans Home in Napa, the largest veterans' home in the United States. In 2018, Jerry also took part in a dinner hosted at Raiders headquarters where he engaged veterans who participated in an Honor Flight trip. In 2019, Jerry returned to Raiders headquarters to meet with families of Travis Air Force Base and assisted with their project to build wooden American flags under the guidance of Flags of Valor. Jerry joined with airmen and their families when the Las Vegas Raiders Family Association gathered in front of televisions at Nellis Air Force Base to cheer on the Raiders as they faced the New York Jets. Most recently, Jerry participated in a virtual watch party with members of Wounded Warriors. In each of those events, Jerry made sure to thank the veterans for their service to our country.
Los Angeles Chargers
James Collins (Director of Football/Medical Services)
James Collins, the Chargers Director of Football/Medical Services was born in Lothian, Maryland, nearby the United State Naval Headquarters in Annapolis, Maryland. While trying to figure out his path in life, he left college and joined the Navy, serving in hospital corps school for two years before signing up for aviation physiology and teaching real-life situations and scenarios similar to popular scenes from the movie “Top Gun.” James served as an aviation physiology technician in the United States Navy from 1980-84. Shortly after leaving the Navy, James enrolled in the athletic training program at San Diego State University and soon found himself in an internship that turned into a full-time position for the then San Diego Chargers. After a few stints working with the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles training staffs, James rejoined the Chargers in 1999, where he has remained an integral part of the organization. In 2019, James was featured in a Department of Defense #BeyondTheUniform video piece highlighting veterans now serving in distinguished and interesting careers. In addition to his support of various Chargers' Salute to Service programs over the years, he also helped coordinate the opening of the Chargers Courage House at Casa de Amparo, a safe house for abused kids.
Los Angeles Rams
Andrew Whitworth (Offensive Tackle)
As soon as Andrew Whitworth joined the Rams organization, he made an immediate impact in the community, including with the military members and veterans living in the Los Angeles region. Last season, through the Rams’ All-Community Team ticket program, Andrew purchased 50 tickets for every home game and donated the tickets to military organizations such as USC Veterans group, Merging Vets and Players (MVP) and a variety of local military bases. Whitworth, who has a strong relationship with Merging Vets & Players' co-founders, Jay Glazer and Nate Boyer, spends much of his offseason training with some of MVP vets at Unbreakable performance gym in Hollywood and even represented MVP. during the 2017 and 2018 'My Cause My Cleats' campaign. Last year, Andrew joined MVP co-founder, Nate Boyer, and two veterans with ties to Hollywood Veterans Center, a homeless shelter strictly for veterans, in a conversation about why he is so strongly connected to helping veterans and in turn, the veterans shared their stories and how much they owe to the Hollywood Veterans Center. The conversation was followed by a tour of the shelter where Andrew was able to interact with residents and finished with a surprise ticket donation for our Salute to Service game. Most recently, Andrew joined MVP and others, including Jay Glazer, Michael Strahan, Tony Gonzalez, Dean Cain and Chamique Holdsclaw for a virtual fundraiser to raise $100,000 for veterans and athletes impacted by COVID-19.
Malcolm Perry (Wide Receiver)
Prior to being selected by the Miami Dolphins in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Malcolm Perry attended the United States Naval Academy, dedicating five years of his life to serving his country after graduation. While in school and playing football, he decided to take the United States Marine Corps route to become a Marine Corps officer. While Perry was not commissioned by the Marine Corps this May because of a deferral to pursue professional sports, Perry will eventually serve at least five years as a United States Marine Corps officer. Perry always knew he was going to serve his country. He is the son of two United States Army veterans and grew up in a primarily military town in Clarksville, Tennessee. Recognizing his father as his hero, Perry's drive and discipline are what helped him succeed at both the Academy and at football. He was recruited by the United States Navy, United States Army and United States Air Force. Perry has connected with The Mission Continues, a veteran service organization that is a FOOTBALL UNITES™ partner of the Miami Dolphins and connects veterans with under-resourced communities by deploying them as volunteers. Most recently on the United States Navy's birthday, Perry participated in a virtual meet and greet with local members of the veteran community, answering questions about his Naval Academy experience as well as his Miami Dolphins experience so far.
Austin Cutting (Long Snapper)
Austin Cutting entered the United States Air Force Academy in 2015. He was a member of Cadet Squadrons 17 and 37 while at the Academy. Cutting got the opportunity to play in the NFL and serve his country when he signed with the Vikings last July — the same day he reported for his first training camp. Since being drafted in 2019, the seventh-round pick has also fulfilled a recruiting role for the United States Air Force around the state of Minnesota. Cutting, who graduated as an acquisitions officer, would have been stationed down in Georgia if he hadn't been with the Vikings or another NFL team. Cutting played in 35 career games with the Air Force Academy and was the only long snapper selected in April's draft. Cutting's military passion and obligation to the Air Force expands into his own community outreach efforts, as well. He has participated in numerous Vikings military events, including a flag football clinic at Camp Ripley, a military training facility in northern Minnesota operated by the Minnesota National Guard. The clinic served kids as part of the United Heroes League, an organization that provides military kids and families with opportunities to stay healthy and active in sports. Austin always pays special attention to military guests at practice, including those from Survivor Outreach Services, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, and World War II veterans. He makes time to speak with each visitor and learn their story.
New England Patriots
Joe Cardona (Long Snapper)
Joe Cardona attended the United States Naval Academy for four years prior to his 2015 rookie season. He was an ensign in the Navy and worked as a staff officer at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island. That season, he was working his second job four days a week, which included a 24-hour shift during the team's day off. In 2017, Joe was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade and served as a junior commissioned officer in the United States Navy. In 2019, Joe was promoted to Lieutenant in the Navy. He proudly wears his Naval uniform as the team boards the plane for away games. Joe has facilitated more than a dozen re-enlistment and retirement ceremonies at Gillette Stadium for fellow military members. He also led a handful of free football clinics for military children at bases across New England, and he replaced military family toys that were burned in a fire three years ago at Joint Base Cape Cod. In 2017, Joe rallied teammates and coaches to each donate a pair of tickets to their game against the Atlanta Falcons and over 150 military members, who had recently returned from deployment, were invited to the game and participated in a special pregame ceremony. Each year during Memorial Day weekend, Joe helps plant more than 37,000 American flags in the Boston Common to honor the brave men and women from Massachusetts that have lost their lives defending our country. Joe also offers his support to the Travis Manion Foundation, a non-profit that empowers veterans and families of fallen heroes to develop character in future generations.
New Orleans Saints
Latavius Murray (Running Back)
Latavius Murray has developed an appreciation for the military that has continued to blossom through life experiences with his fiancée, Shauntay, who served 13 years in the United States Navy. Murray and Shauntay have known each other since he was a preteen. After he moved with family from Florida to New York, they stayed connected. They weren't a couple when she decided to enlist out of high school, but as their relationship blossomed, he has encouraged her to re-enlist as many times as she would elect to. Murray said he's been able to see characteristics that help military members accomplish their jobs overlap with elements that help in football. The up-close view of commitment, sacrifice and unselfishness have inspired Murray to do more to support military members and their families. He has participated in a USO Tour to visit troops serving in Germany and Italy. Additionally, Murray became the second NFL player to ever serve as an ambassador for the United Heroes League, which provides sports registration fees and equipment for children in military families. Murray said his goals for the ambassador position are to increase awareness, help raise funds and show that the people that are actually involved truly care.
New York Giants
Michael Strahan (NFL Legend)
Michael Strahan has long been a supporter of the military and continues to do so today. As a child growing up in a military family, the Strahans moved to Germany when he was nine years old in support of his father's Army career. Michael attended Mannheim American High School, a United States Department of Defense Dependent High School. After a successful college and professional football career, Michael continues his support of the military by visiting wounded service members at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Additionally, he works with the USO and donates clothes from his clothing line, to veterans in need. Today, Michael proudly works with a military non-profit called Merging Vets and Players (MVP), which takes retired veteran military members and connects them with retired athletes to help with their transitions. As a self-proclaimed "Army brat," Michael has truly used his experience and platform to make a difference within the military community, and we are grateful for his commitment to those who courageously served and are serving our country.
New York Jets
Steve Castleton (Military & Law Enforcement Team Liaison)
Steve has been the Jets’ military liaison since 2013, when he first coordinated on-field and satellite activities at numerous military bases in Kandahar, Afghanistan and Bagram, Afghanistan for our United States Armed Forces. He has coordinated all the pre-game and half-time activities for the Jets at both their Salute to Service and First Responder appreciation days — organizing the enlistment/re-enlistments of more than 1,000 members of the armed forces at professional sporting events. Thanks to Steve, in 2016 at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, the Army held the first “NY Sports Event” where a sports field was carved out of the Afghanistan soil and custom jerseys were sent. Since 2016, Steve has coordinated the Turkey Bowl flag football game held at Bagram Air Force Base. In 2019, he organized the first annual Navy vs. Marines Flag Football game at the Jets’ Florham Park, New Jersey training facility. During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Steve personally obtained and delivered an SUV filled with personal protective equipment (PPE) to the New York State Veterans Home and the Veterans Administration Hospital in Northport, New York on more than 15 occasions. Coordinating the delivery with the Suffolk County Police Department, he personally funded #FeedOurHeroes, 8 Hospitals in 8 Days, which was an initiative of his to feed the front-line workers in eight Long Island Hospitals over eight days. Steve has also been sworn in as a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army.
George Mateo (Game Day Staff Supervisor)
George Mateo is a Game Day Staff Supervisor for the Philadelphia Eagles who served in the United States Army. George volunteers with an organization called Team Red White & Blue (RWB) whose mission is to enrich the lives of America's veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Through this group, he participates in several local and national events with ties to veterans and veteran families. Such as the Travis Manion 9/11 Heroes Run, Run as One PTSD/Suicide Awareness, 500 for the Fallen, VetHack Ruck March, The Day We Remember Run/Walk. While activities are mostly physical in nature, RWB partners with the Travis Manion Foundation in community clean-ups in the Point Breeze section of Philadelphia, with the Salvation Army sorting toys, and with local soup kitchens to deliver and serve meals to shelters throughout the city. One of the highlights, for George as a member of Team RWB is running the game ball with the West Point Marathon team from the Art Museum to Lincoln Financial Field the night prior to the Army-Navy Game.
Jon Kolb (NFL Legend & Former Assistant Coach)
Former Steelers offensive tackle and assistant coach Jon Kolb founded Adventures in Training with a Purpose (ATP) to confront health- and movement-related issues in vulnerable populations who no longer have the benefit of paid rehabilitation. Through this non-profit, Jon and his staff work with children and adults, many of whom are veterans, with purposeful physical training to improve their quality of life. Jon joined the Army National Guard as a Steelers rookie in 1969 and truly has a heart for veterans. There are approximately 42,000 charitable organizations in the United States dedicated to serving veterans. Many of these organizations support veterans by offering short-term financial assistance to improve or maintain their quality of life. ATP is dedicated to improving the lives of these men and women through purposeful physical training, to empower veterans with the freedom to move and perform tasks of daily living without the need of assistance. Active-duty military and veterans make up 53 percent of ATP's clients and are served free of charge at one of three locations — Pittsburgh, Hermitage, Pennsylvania, and Youngstown, Ohio. At the Youngtown location, 95 percent of those they serve are veterans. Through distinctive balance and stability training, sensory integration and motor skills training, they help bolster physical ability. Jon speaks with pride and admiration for the clients with whom he works. Many lives have been positively transformed through the ATP program thanks to Jon Kolb's work with ATP.
San Francisco 49ers
John Lynch (General Manager and NFL Legend)
Lynch has a longstanding appreciation for the United States military. Both his grandfather and great uncle volunteered for the Army the day after the deadly attacks on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Since 1998, Lynch has frequented various Air Force bases and military hospitals to personally thank those serving in the military, in Florida, Maryland and Colorado. Lynch was also the recipient of the 2006 Bart Starr Award. Every year since 2011, he has hosted military families at the annual Lynch Christmas Party and each holiday season with the 49ers, he hosts military families and underserved youth for a holiday party and practice visit. In 2018 and 2019, Lynch welcomed more than 250 active duty troops and veterans for a VIP training camp practice experience. In November 2017, Lynch spearheaded a visit to the USO office at the San Jose Military Entrance Processing Station to congratulate newly enlisted recruits heading off to basic training. In October 2019, Lynch welcomed a group of decorated veterans, including five Purple Hearts, when the 49ers played near Washington, D.C. Lynch's commitment to supporting veteran organizations like USO Bay Area, has led to new opportunities to supporting troops and families with game tickets, Salute to Service program involvement, choosing USO Bay Area as the 50/50 raffle beneficiary for the 2019 Salute to Service game, and delivering care kits to isolated troops in partnership with USAA during COVID-19.
Mike Flood (Community Outreach Vice President)
Mike Flood has played an essential role in developing a distinguished relationship between the Seattle Seahawks and the local military in the Pacific Northwest since joining the team in 1997. Joining Seahawks Legends Chuck Knox and Shaun Alexander, Flood was inducted into the Class of 2019 Pacific Northwest Football Hall of Fame for his community outreach efforts. Not only is Flood an active military supporter, he is also a military veteran. For 22 years, Flood was a pilot in the United States Coast Guard. Piloting C-130s, Dassault Falcon Jets, and H60 Jayhawk helicopters. Flood conducted search-and-rescue missions along the Oregon and Washington coasts until retiring as a commander in 1996. Flood introduced the Seahawks to Fisher House Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides a home for military families free of charge while their loved ones are in the hospital and aided in a community-wide campaign to raise awareness and funds to build a second Fisher House facility in the Pacific Northwest. Flood is also an active board member of Camp Patriot, a veteran-based non-profit organization created to provide outdoor recreation activities for disabled veterans. He also assisted in the creation of the Military Sea Hawkers, a group of military veterans from all branches who share a love for the Seattle Seahawks. In 2012, Flood was recognized by the Governor's Veteran Affairs Advisory Committee and the Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs and awarded the Outstanding Service to Veterans Award. In 2013, he helped create the "Heroes of 12" initiative where six lower bowl stadium seats were dedicated to our local military members and their families. These game-day seats come at no cost to the service members and their families.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ryan Jensen (Center)
For Ryan Jensen, who has made Salute to Service a priority through everyday relationships and outreach initiatives, his appreciation for the military spans generations. Jensen's military connections include his grandfather, who served in the Army in Vietnam and Korea; his uncle, who served in the Army; and his adopted brother, who is currently serving in the Marine Corps and has completed two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2014, Jensen, then a member of the Baltimore Ravens, forged a special bond with a five-year-old boy named Cooper, also the product of a military family. Cooper's father was tragically killed in action before he was born, and Jensen has maintained a special relationship with the boy and his family through the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). In 2019, Jensen honored Cooper and TAPS through the NFL's annual My Cause, My Cleats initiative, and he plans to continue to bring greater awareness and support to Gold Star Families who are grieving the loss of a member of the armed forces. During his time with the Buccaneers, Jensen has visited MacDill Air Force Base on numerous occasions through the USO Central Florida and has been an active participant in a variety of team initiatives such as Military Day at Training Camp and the Schwarzkopf Military Family Awards, which honors military families from each branch of the armed forces. Jensen has sponsored a community ticket program named "Jensen's G.I. Joes" for military veterans to enjoy a special gameday experience at Raymond James Stadium, and he has visited local VA hospitals to lighten the spirits of veterans recovering from injury and illness.
Floyd Hyde (Stadium Safety Manager)
Army Retired Captain Floyd Allen Hyde has distinguished himself with more than 40 years of exceptionally meritorious service to the America and the United States Army. His extraordinary career culminated with him serving as the automotive maintenance manager for the Tennessee Army National Guard and included a multitude of essential assignments of increased responsibility, where he consistently demonstrated exceptional leadership, dedicated service and commitment to soldiers. In 2008-09, Mr. Hyde served as the clearing and security team operations officer for 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command. Mr. Hyde oversaw logistics, repairs, and replacement of rolling stock for all Brigade Combat Teams (BCT's). His continuous efforts aided in the success of all missions and provided a functional means of transportation for soldiers departing and returning to their area of operations (AO). During 2005-06, while mobilized in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and attached to 2nd Marine Division, he served as the maintenance control officer and the anti-terrorism officer. Mr. Hyde completed high-quality maintenance and provided training for all BCT cycles that fulfilled the commanders’ intent and set the standard for the Marine Division within the AO. His hard work and dedication to duty led to the preparation of future soldiers and Marines to support the global war on terror. Mr. Hyde currently serves as the safety act manager at Nissan Stadium. Soldiers and service members are a tremendous part of the Titans Community. He is always cognizant of his facility and is mindful of when military members are present. He enjoys going out and greeting the serving military members, sharing stories and offering guidance to them.
Washington Football Team
Ryan Kerrigan (Linebacker)
A silent leader on and off the field, Ryan Kerrigan has defined the Washington Football Team's culture for the past decade. A presence in the locker room representing discipline, poise and a winning mentality for each and every player that has stepped foot in the locker room. Ryan's player mentality and approach to the game are similar to the mentality taught in the United States Navy, where they teach "not self, but country." One of Kerrigan's best friends serves in the United States Navy and Ryan is proud to participate in the Washington Football Team's military outreach initiatives. Ryan served as a host and captain when the team visited Joint Base Andrews to hold their annual practice, stayed an extra hour at the USO Warrior & Family Center Salute to Service BBQ to ensure all uniformed personnel got a picture with him, and was the last player to leave each and every military appreciation practice during training camp and organized team activities.
Since 2011, USAA has used its sponsorship to honor and appreciate active-duty military, veterans and their families by creating exclusive opportunities that bring the military community and the NFL closer together. In response to COVID-19 and observance of public health recommendations, this season, USAA will be offering military, veterans, and their families virtual experiences. All current/former military are encouraged to enter the USAA Salute to Service Sweepstakes for a chance to win the Ultimate Fan Cave (sweepstakes open through November 30, 2020 at SaluteToService.com). The military community is also invited to tune in to the USAA Salute to Service Virtual Lounge, which features a series of interactive chalk talks with NFL players. For more information on the schedule and which NFL players will appear, please visit SaluteToService.com. Fans can join the NFL and USAA in honoring the military community all year long by visiting NFL.com/Causes/Salute.