Demario Davis among NFL nominees For 12th Annual Salute to Service Award
Jun 14, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints Demario Davis (56) during warmups during minicamp at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility (Photo: Stephen Lew).The NFL and USAA, an official NFL Salute to Service partner, announced the 2022 nominees for the annual Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. The Salute to Service Award recognizes NFL players, coaches, staff and alumni with demonstrable commitment to honoring and supporting military and veteran communities, as nominated by NFL clubs.
New this year is an opportunity for fans to vote for their favorite nominee, which will help determine the award’s three finalists. To see all the nominees and vote, fans can visit NFL.com/SaluteFanVote from now until November 30. One vote per day, per fan is permitted.
The finalists will be announced in January, and the recipient will be recognized at NFL Honors, a primetime awards special to air nationally in February during the week of Super Bowl LVII.
“This year’s nominees for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA all deserve special recognition as community leaders for their hard work and support of our military, veterans and their families,” said Vice Admiral (Ret.) John Bird, USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs. “With fan voting now part of the award selection process, we encourage fans to read about each nominee, cast their vote, and be inspired to find their own ways to show military appreciation.”
Last year’s award recipient was Andrew Beck, Denver Broncos Tight End. Beck will serve on the award panel that selects the 2022 Salute to Service Award recipient once the three finalists are determined via the fan vote.
Additional panel members include Chad Hennings, Air Force Academy graduate and three-time Super Bowl champion; Jim Mora, Sr., Marine Corps veteran and former NFL head coach; Lenny Bandy, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and NFL Vice President of Security; and Vice Admiral (Ret.) John Bird, USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs.
As the presenting sponsor of the Salute to Service Award, USAA, a leading provider of insurance, banking and other financial services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, will contribute $25,000 in the recipient’s name to official aid societies representing all U.S. military branches. The NFL will match USAA’s contribution by donating an additional $25,000 to the awardee’s military or veteran 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 and veteran community. Each year, the NFL and its 32 teams come together to honor, empower, and connect with service members, veterans, and their families as part of the NFL’s Salute to Service initiative. The league’s military appreciation efforts culminate in November with NFL Salute to Service games and other special events.
Below is the list of the 2022 Salute to Service Award presented by USAA nominees:
|Team||2022 Salute to Service Award Nominees|
|Arizona Cardinals||Justin Pugh (Guard)
Justin Pugh, a Guard with the Arizona Cardinals, personifies each pillar of the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign. He honors and appreciates the sacrifices made by veterans by understanding their unique sacrifices for the citizens of this country to have their freedom. Pugh shows this appreciation for our veterans through the non-profit he supports called Merging Vets and Players (MVP). He has played an important role in the MVP organization by empowering veterans and NFL players to embrace their stories and experiences by connecting them with each other once the veterans are no longer wearing their uniforms. MVP recently held an event at the Cardinals training facility in which Justin participated in. The event featured a 30-minute workout for the 53 veterans in attendance and was followed by a roundtable discussion about the mental struggles that both the players and the veterans deal with. Pugh believes that having a “macho mentality” is all too common, not only within the NFL but also within the military community. Pugh, whose brother Michael currently serves in the United States Air Force, understands the mental health challenges that both players and veterans can experience. His willingness to speak on the importance of mental health and share his own story gives a lot of confidence to other veterans and players to speak up about issues of their own. He wants to continue to be an example for veterans by gradually erasing the stigma that surrounds mental health.
|Atlanta Falcons||Arthur Smith (Head Coach)
The son of a U.S. Marine Corps captain who served in the Vietnam War, Coach Arthur Smith is an avid supporter of hosting military events for the team to connect with service members, veterans, and their families. In August, Smith took the team to visit with cadets and tour the campus at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point while the team was in New York for their preseason game. The players shared a meal with the Black Knights team, hosted a walk-through at Michie Stadium, and toured the campus to learn about the history and sacrifices of its alumni. Also, this past summer, Smith participated in a visit to Eglin Air Force Base in Destin, Florida. Smith, among other Falcons players and executives spent the day on the base, where they toured the facilities, spent time with numerous military members and had a chance to eat lunch with active-duty soldiers. Most recently, while the Atlanta Falcons team was in Seattle for an away game, Smith hosted a private viewing with players and local military members for the new film Devotion, a harrowing and inspiring story of two Navy fighter pilots in the Korean War. Also that week, the Falcons teamed up with the Seahawks and hosted a military base visit on their day off to show appreciation to service members at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Additionally, the Falcons hosted military veterans for a fishing tournament called “Fishing with the Falcons” and hosted active-duty military at Training Camp practices this summer.
|Baltimore Ravens||Jarrett Johnson (NFL Legend)
As an active player, and since his retirement from the NFL in 2015, Ravens Legend Jarret Johnson has demonstrated a constant commitment to honoring service members, veterans and their families. With the goal to employ veterans, Johnson partnered with a service-disabled Air Force veteran to start a Black Rifle Coffee franchise in Niceville, Florida. The franchise employs veterans, service members, spouses, and children of military members from all around the world. Each month, Johnson uses his coffee shop to host events that bring veterans together and allows them to discuss issues they’re facing such as overcoming injuries, transitioning from military life, job opportunities and more. Johnson is an annual sponsor of SOF Missions, a non-profit that provides care to veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) with the goal of ending veteran suicide. Every Memorial Day, Johnson organizes, sponsors and participates in various military fundraising workouts. In May 2022, Johnson hosted “The Lu,” honoring Master Sgt. Luis Deleon-Figueroa who was killed Aug. 21, 2019, while deployed to Afghanistan. The event raised over $15,000 for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. On Memorial Day 2021, Johnson raised nearly $15,000 for the EOD Warrior Foundation and Pipe Hitter Foundation. The workouts that originally started in Johnson’s backyard have grown into large community-wide fundraising activations. Johnson regularly provides leadership development and positive motivation to the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group through various speaking engagements, shooting events, fishing trips, veteran family cookouts and frequent participation in grueling physical workouts with Special Forces teams. In 2021 and 2022, he completed the Special Forces Group Savage Loop ultramarathon, a 43-mile run around the Choctawatchee Bay in northwest Florida. Additionally in 2022, Johnson was named an Honorary Battalion Commander for the 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group.
|Buffalo Bills||Reid Ferguson (Long Snapper)
Reid Ferguson, Buffalo Bills Long Snapper, demonstrates his honor and appreciation for our nation’s military, veterans and their families through his continuous involvement in the Buffalo community. Both of his grandfathers, Jim Seal and Robert Ferguson, great uncle, Jerry Seale, and great grandfather, Howard Seale, all served in the military. During the 2020 and 2021 Salute to Service weeks, Ferguson hosted a meet and greet happy hour honoring military members, veterans, and their families at a local brewery – which he will be hosting again in November this season. The event benefited the Veterans One-Stop Center of Western New York (WNY), which empowers veterans to achieve economic well-being by offering holistic social and health services needed to complete the transition from military to civilian life. During the 2019 Salute to Service pre-game ceremony, he held the full-field flag alongside 150+ active and former military members during the national anthem. In 2020, Ferguson and his teammates assembled Salute to Service gift bags that were distributed to local military organizations throughout WNY. Last season, Ferguson selected the Whirlwind Veterans and Warrior Retreat for his My Cause My Cleats organization. That organization, located in Eden, NY, is a resiliency agricultural program established by veterans for veterans of all military branches. This past April, Ferguson launched Grills Mafia, a unique BBQ x Buffalo Bills apparel line where a portion of the proceeds are donated to WNY veteran charities.
|Carolina Panthers||Derrick Brown (Defensive Tackle)
Upon entering the NFL in 2020 following an All-American career at Auburn University, Carolina Panthers Defensive Tackle Derrick Brown was quick to give back to the military community. As the son of an Army service member, he saw firsthand the hard work and dedication it takes to be on the front lines. Brown has partnered with the United Service Organizations (USO) of North Carolina and supports the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) for the NFL’s My Clause My Cleats initiative. Brown’s military ties are personal, and he takes the sacrifices of others to heart. “We put in a lot of hard work and dedication on the field but at the end of the day, we aren’t on the front lines,” said Brown. “We thank these men and women, and everyone else who’s served. Salute to Service for me is a time to recognize men and women serving right now, going overseas, and keeping us safe at home. This is our time to recognize and honor them.” Brown continues his on-going support for military personnel through providing meal service relief for veterans facing food insecurity. He also engages with service members during annual training camp visits, as well as other morale-boosting events supporting military personnel in the Carolinas.
|Chicago Bears||Cody Whitehair (Offensive Lineman)
As a veteran leader on the team and one of our team captains, Cody Whitehair consistently supports the community and particularly members of the military. He has participated in past Salute to Service week events, including a luncheon at Halas Hall with veterans from the Midwest Veterans Homeless Shelter. In partnership with Campbell’s Soup and Jewel-Osco, Whitehair served lunch and spent time getting to know the men and women who served our country. This season, for the first time, he participated in our Home Team Hand-Off ticket donation program by purchasing four tickets to each Bears home game and donating them to our Boeing Military Salute honorees and their families. At each Bears home game, a deserving member of the military is honored in an on-field recognition during the third quarter. The Military Salute provides the opportunity for the Bears, Boeing, and our great fans to give thanks and show support to those who protect our country and to also honor the history and heritage of Soldier Field. Whitehair has enhanced the program not only by personally donating tickets, but additionally by giving each honoree one of his signed jerseys as a memory of the day. He plans to continue his military support by taking part in our team’s Salute to Service events throughout the month of November.
|Cincinnati Bengals||Hayden Hurst (Tight End)
Cincinnati Bengals Tight End Hayden Hurst has been a growing national voice in the mental health treatment, awareness and advocacy community since sharing his story of battling depression and anxiety in 2020. That year, he and his family produced a video with a message to Marines in support of Suicide Prevention Month, which helped introduce Hurst to the mental, emotional and psychological challenges faced by current and former military members. Since then, he has remained dedicated to veteran outreach, working with several organizations around the country through the Hayden Hurst Family Foundation. Hurst pledged $20,000 to Top Dogg K9 Foundation, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that trains and pairs service dogs with disabled veterans struggling with mental health challenges post-deployment. At the third annual Hayden Hurst Family Foundation Golf Tournament held in February, Hurst and his mother, Cathy, worked with Acadia Healthcare to fly in a foursome of military patients that were honored before participating in the event. Proceeds from the tournament benefited the Youth Crisis Center, an organization that helps children with depression and anxiety in Hurst’s hometown of Jacksonville, FL. In August, Hurst partnered with the Cincinnati-based Armed Forces Tickets Association to provide four tickets for an active-duty service member and their family to watch the Bengals’ preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams at Paycor Stadium. The Hayden Hurst Family Foundation is actively collaborating with Acadia Healthcare to host military-appreciation events in the Greater Cincinnati area, while also working with the behavioral health science department at the University of South Carolina, Hurst’s alma mater, on military engagement projects.
|Cleveland Browns||Wyatt Teller (Guard)
Throughout his time with the Browns, Guard Wyatt Teller has honored, empowered, and connected with the military community in Northern Ohio. Teller is the son of retired Army Reserve Major Rick Teller so supporting military members and their families is a cause that is personal to him. “I’m thankful for the people overseas and for the men and women who keep us protected,” said Teller during an interview. “These people are the ones who are putting their lives on the line for us and for what our society believes is right.” In 2021, Teller supported the Green Beret Foundation, which provides U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers and their families with emergency, immediate and ongoing support. Additionally, Teller played a huge role in surprising the family of a servicewoman with a $50,000 grand prize check as part of the Browns’ and CrossCountry Mortgage’s sweepstakes. Teller always prioritizes honoring our military while they are on the Browns campus, including this offseason at OTAs and Training Camp. During both, the team hosted over 200 military members, and Teller was able to spend time with each person after practice. Additionally, Teller took the time after practice one day of Training Camp to connect with a fan and FaceTime with the 35-year member of the U.S. Army who was stationed in Saudi Arabia. The future has many plans in place for Teller when it comes to empowering military members, including support of the USS Cleveland, which will be docked in Cleveland in 2024, when Teller will be involved in making this special for the ship’s sailors.
|Dallas Cowboys||Dan Quinn (Defensive Coordinator)
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn’s long-time support of service members, veterans and their families demonstrates the Salute to Service tenants to honor, empower and connect with those that preserve our freedoms. Quinn honors those who serve by donating his time to causes that aid the military community. Quinn’s history of support stems from his personal interactions with those that dedicate their lives to service, from childhood friends to family members to chance encounters with veterans. While with the Seahawks, Quinn founded “Quinn’s Corps” – a program to honor service members. While coaching the Falcons, Quinn expanded the program to include team United Service Organizations (USO) tours and game visits for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). Now with the Cowboys, Quinn empowers the military community by being a voice of support and encouragement to veterans and active-duty service members. Quinn frequently engages with Merging Vets and Players (MVP) and joins the team in hosting workouts and mental health discussions with local veterans that address the challenges that combat veterans and former athletes face in transition. The connection that Quinn is forming with local military partners carries over into his day-to-day coaching role. In May 2022, Quinn joined General Paul E. Funk II, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command for a Leader Professional Development webinar. During the session, Quinn spoke about staying resilient through adversity and developing a unified squad while working with people of different backgrounds and experiences.
|Denver Broncos||Michael Purcell (Defensive Lineman)
Denver Broncos Defensive Lineman Michael Purcell is committed to honoring, empowering and connecting with our nation’s service members, veterans and their families. For four consecutive seasons (2019-22), Purcell has honored Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) for the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats initiative saying, “This is really just a shout out and thank you for those who have served our country and sacrificed so much.” Taking it a step further, as part of the initiative in 2019, Purcell visited with a local veterans business resource group to thank them for their service and share his cleats. In 2021 he unveiled his cleats at the WWP Colorado Springs office, showcasing the words of encouragement he selected for warriors. Each year he has auctioned his cleats to benefit WWP, matching the total in 2021 and raising more than $3,310 over the first three years for WWP’s mission to honor and empower Wounded Warriors who incurred a physical or mental injury, illnesses, or wound, co-incident to military service. He also helped lead a virtual team visit with WWP in November of 2020, providing an opportunity for players and veterans to connect during Salute to Service month. In May 2021, he participated in a “Wingman Week Virtual Visit” with Buckley Air Force Base and United Service Organizations (USO) Colorado, with a goal to empower service members, strengthen connections, and rejuvenate the fighting spirit. During his limited break from football ahead of the team’s 2022 training camp, Purcell was one of two featured players to visit with and honor local service members on a USAA Salute to Service caravan.
|Detroit Lions||Eric Hipple (NFL Legend)
Eric Hipple is a former NFL Quarterback whose ten-year career was spent with the Detroit Lions. Since his 15-year-old son Jeff’s suicide in 2000, Hipple has devoted his life to building awareness and breaking down the stigma surrounding depressive illnesses. Hipple is a recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and numerous other awards for his community-based work combating adolescent depression and suicide while reducing the stigma associated with disabilities. His commitment to helping others increase their quality of life is demonstrated through work with numerous organizations. Hipple’s message of resilience has provided mental fitness awareness to service members, law enforcement officers, professional groups, and students. He has provided workshops with the Navy’s U.S. Fleet Forces Command on suicide prevention and destructive behavior over the last 12 years. These suicide prevention workshops for the U.S. Navy are conducted at bases on the East Coast, in Europe and in the Middle East. Additionally, Hipple has conducted suicide prevention workshops for numerous units within the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force over the previous two decades. His 2008 book Real Men Do Cry: A Quarterback’s Inspiring Story of Tackling Depression and Surviving Suicide Loss received a publisher Presidential Award. Hipple currently serves as Outreach Specialist for the Center for Neurological Studies, a research and clinical foundation serving military veterans and former NFL players. Hipple organized the “After the Impact” treatment program at the Michigan-based Eisenhower Center that places veterans and NFL legends together in a 30-day inpatient stay. Hipple continues his service by serving on the boards for Vet Life, an organization dedicated to helping veterans transition to civilian lifestyle, and the Michigan Heroes Museum.
|Green Bay Packers||Daryn Colledge (NFL Legend)
Selected by the Packers out of Boise State in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft, the durable Offensive Lineman Daryn Colledge spent five seasons with the team. After retiring from the NFL in 2015, Colledge enlisted in the Idaho National Guard in 2016 as a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer. “I always wanted to come back and serve, and I had a great opportunity to do that,” said Colledge. “It was like being back in a locker room, just being with a group of people who had the same goal as you and were striving for the same outcome…I found that team and that brotherhood again in the military that I had been missing. Different goals and consequences, but a team nonetheless.” Growing up in North Pole, Alaska, Colledge was surrounded by military bases and family members serving, including his brother. He continued fostering that military connection while playing football, traveling as part of a Navy Entertainment trip in 2011 with the Packers and joining United Service Organizations (USO) tours when he could. In 2018, he was deployed to Afghanistan for nine months, serving as a mechanic, door gunner, medic assistant and hoist operator. His four-person medical evacuation unit had to respond to a variety of calls to help bring soldiers home safely. Since returning from Afghanistan, Colledge continued serving in the National Guard through April of 2022. He now serves as a reservist while working for his alma mater, Boise State. “The NFL allowed me the opportunity to take care of my family and do things I never imagined possible. But it also gave me the opportunity to enter into service not as an obligation, but as something I could do for myself,” said Colledge.
|Houston Texans||Texans Cheerleaders
The Houston Texans organization has a proud tradition of honoring those who serve, and one of our greatest champions for the cause is the Houston Texans Cheerleaders. The Texans Cheerleaders have always dedicated their time and talents to honoring service members. Since the inception of the franchise, the Texans Cheerleaders have dedicated their time and talents to honoring service members by supporting organizations such as United Service Organizations (USO), Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), Operation Finally Home, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Tuesday’s Children and many others. In 2019, the Texans Cheerleaders traveled overseas with Armed Forces Entertainment headlining the Salute to Service Super Bowl 10-day Tour that visited the Al Dahfra Air Force Base in the United Arab Emirates, bases in Qatar, and Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. The tour featured the Texans Cheerleaders along with four Texans Legends who performed 60-minute shows. The Cheerleaders spent time getting to know the service members and hearing their stories, going on base tours, going through simulation exercises, playing flag football and sitting down to listen as they spoke about their friends and families back home. Supporting women veterans is a cause that is of particular importance to the Texans Cheerleaders. Prior to the pandemic, Texans Cheerleaders and alumni of the program volunteered with the Women of the Armed Forces and Veteran Empowerment (W.A.V.E.) Campaign to package and distribute much-needed undergarments, pajamas and comfort items to women receiving treatment in the local Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital. Additional events include visiting the USO Center at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport to deliver meals to service members and volunteers, stepping up to distribute turkeys and Thanksgiving meals to families at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, providing lunches for National Guard and Army Reserve troops coming home, and welcoming back 120 service members from a nine-month overseas deployment.
|Indianapolis Colts||Brian Decker (Club Staff – Director of Team Development)
Brian Decker, Indianapolis Colts Director of Team Development, has continuously embodied the values of the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign during his tenure with the team by honoring, empowering, and connecting with service members, veterans, and their families. Decker, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, prioritizes mentorship with military recruits and veterans. He assists the Indiana National Guard by supporting recruiting efforts through speaking engagements. This past August, Decker spoke to the Indianapolis Army Recruiting Battalion Future Soldier Recognition Program. He inspires recruits by highlighting the opportunity to serve while inspiring and motivating them to make the transition into the military. Decker has also become a mentor for service members who undergo the process of transitioning out of the military into other areas such as sports and the private sector. He makes multiple calls a week with veterans to share his story and to offer guidance. Decker relates with veterans regarding challenges they face following military service while encouraging mental well-being. In addition to his involvement in recruiting and mentorship, Decker speaks with America’s Gold Star Families at Colts home games, serving as a source of encouragement and healing for families who lost loved ones in military service.
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Paul Posluszny (NFL Legend)
Throughout his NFL career and since retiring in 2018, Jaguars Legend Linebacker Paul Posluszny supported various Jaguars Salute to Service campaign activations in northeast Florida to honor, empower and connect with service members, veterans and their families. During the NFL’s 2017 My Cause My Cleats Campaign, Posluszny dedicated his cleats to the Pat Tillman Foundation (PTF) to help bring awareness on the large stage and donated the proceeds back to the PTF to honor Pat Tillman as a player and soldier. Posluszny also participated in the Jaguars “Pros vs GI Joes” event to connect with active-duty service members in-person and overseas in a video game show-down providing troops an evening of fun and friendly competition. Posluszny has a huge heart for our military and continues to empower our service members by visiting and supporting K9s for Warriors in Jacksonville, an organization that provides highly trained service dogs to military veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury and/or military sexual trauma. Additionally, he helps the Jaguars, alongside community partner St. Michael’s Soldiers, to provide 1000 military care packages to active-duty service members oversees each year, leaving a heartfelt note in each box he packages.
|Kansas City Chiefs||Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Running Back)
Kansas City Chiefs Running Back Clyde Edwards-Helaire personifies each component of the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign to honor, empower and connect service members, veterans and their families. This is thanks to his upbringing in a military household that was focused on structure and determination. His mother, Tonge, joined the U.S. Army in 1996, while his stepfather, Shannon, enlisted with the Marine Corps in 1989. The couple met as each was serving as drill instructors at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, Louisiana, marrying in 2002. “Being at home with my military mom and military dad, I guess that’s kind of where my competitive nature comes,” Edwards-Helaire noted shortly after he was selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. “Just having that upbringing knowing when times got hard, nothing can break you.” Shortly after his arrival with the Chiefs, he focused his charitable efforts on supporting those in the military. One manifestation of those efforts is seen through his previous work with the Blue Star Families’ “Thank You, Military” Sweepstakes, in which military members entered for a chance to win a Sleep Number 360 smart bed. As a result of this campaign, Edwards-Helaire personally surprised the Henke family of the U.S. Army with a brand-new Sleep Number 360 smart bed and additional products. Additionally, he raises funds in support of Friends In Service of Heroes (FISH), an organization that aims to advocate for support and awareness of the sacrifices our service members make. He’s also a mainstay when the Chiefs engage with the military, including at its annual Military Appreciation Day every year during training camp. “A lot of people tend to put military people on the backburner, especially those veterans,” he recently noted. “Always having that in mind is close to my heart.”
|Las Vegas Raiders||Jay Schroeder (NFL Legend)
The Las Vegas Raiders are proud to nominate alumnus Jay Schroeder for the 2022 Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. Schroeder played five seasons with the Raiders as a starting quarterback and spent 11 years overall in the NFL. Schroeder now lives in Las Vegas and embodies each tenant of the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign to honor, empower and connect service members, veterans and their families. During his tenure with the team, both as a player and now as an alumnus, Schroeder continually has shown support for the community and the Raiders’ military partners. He most recently participated in the USAA Bootcamp held at Allegiant Stadium for over 100 service members from Creech and Nellis Air Force Bases, both of which are located in Southern Nevada. Schroeder has engaged with the Seats for Soldiers program participants on multiple occasions over the last three years. Jay works with a ranch in Southern Nevada, where he helps advocate and raise money for The Liberty Projects, a charitable organization that empowers veterans as part of its work to save America’s wild mustangs. The ranch provides veterans with an outlet to interact with horses for training, rehabilitation and camaraderie. Schroeder was also part of the first civilian group to visit Nevada’s military bases at the onset of the pandemic when he helped boost the morale of service members by signing autographs and delivering Raiders gear.
|Los Angeles Chargers||Morgan Fox (Defensive Lineman)
The appreciation for our nation’s military members and veterans extends far beyond the field for Chargers Defensive Lineman Morgan Fox. Throughout his life, Fox has witnessed firsthand what it means to be a part of a military family. Three generations of family members including Fox’s father, stepfather, and father-in-law have proudly served and saw combat duties that have impacted his life. This has influenced Fox’s philanthropic outlook and desire to give back to military and veteran communities. On the field, Fox has raised awareness and funds through the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats initiative for nonprofit organizations including Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), Merging Vets and Players (MVP), One Tribe Foundation (Formally 22KILL), and War Heroes on Water. These organizations support and assist veterans in overcoming mental and emotional struggles that they face once their service has ended. Fox has worked for years with the WWP on several events, including participating in workout events, being a featured speaker, and sitting down with wounded warriors to hear and understand their experiences firsthand. Fox’s support of the military and our nation’s veterans will continue in 2022 with special events planned for the team’s Salute to Service initiatives. Fox will be raising funds through his merchandise line – with all proceeds going to support the WWP – and will be hosting wounded warriors at the Chargers practice facility in November.
|Los Angeles Rams||Rob Havenstein (Offensive Tackle)
The Los Angeles Rams are proud to nominate starting Offensive Tackle and Super Bowl Champion Rob Havenstein for the 2022 NFL Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. Havenstein was drafted by the Rams in 2015 and has been making an impact both on and off the field ever since. Here in Los Angeles, he has helped enrich the lives of service members, veterans and their families in a number of ways since the team relocated in 2016. Havenstein has donated countless tickets through our all-community ticket program to local military organizations to allow service members and veterans a chance to connect with their local team. Last year, Havenstein even donated his suite to the families of the fallen service members we honored through our partnership with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). Havenstein has supported a number of military and veteran organizations through the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats initiative. This year, Havenstein has chosen to honor Warrior Rising, an organization that empowers U.S. military veterans and their family members by providing them opportunities to create sustainable businesses.
|Miami Dolphins||Blake Ferguson (Long Snapper)
Inspired by his WWII Navy veteran great grandfather and Air Force veteran best friend, Blake Ferguson has fostered a deep military appreciation throughout his life. Since the Miami Dolphins drafted him in 2020, Blake immediately dedicated his time, energy and involvement to team Salute to Service initiatives that honor, empower, and connect with service members, veterans, and their families. He jumped at opportunities not only to participate, but also to lead. In 2021, he hosted his first military appreciation barbecue event for active-duty military members and veterans in South Florida during Salute to Service week. He partnered with United Way of Broward County’s Mission United and the Miami Dolphins Food Relief Program to distribute 800 Thanksgiving meals to Broward County’s military veterans and active reserve members. Ferguson also attended the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Miami flag football game between officers and enlisted service members and visited the air station later in the month to further connect with the Coast Guardsmen. He supported the Miami Dolphins Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) families and continues to seek every avenue to support the military community from team and individual outreach opportunities to messages of encouragement through social and digital media.
|Minnesota Vikings||Ben Kotwica (Assistant Special Teams Coordinator)
Ben Kotwica, Minnesota Vikings Assistant Special Teams Coordinator, embodies each tenant of the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign to honor, empower and connect service members, veterans and their families. Coach Kotwica honors veterans and military members through service of his own. He is a decorated officer who spent eight years in the U.S. Army after graduating from West Point. His military career included operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Korea and Iraq. Kotwica was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Aviation Branch of the Army and was selected to fly the AH-64 Apache Longbow, the world’s top attack helicopter. He was an Attack Helicopter Platoon Leader in support of the 82nd Airborne Division from 1998-2001 where he was responsible for the health and welfare of 20 soldiers. Coach Kotwica makes it a point to honor the military community by thanking military guests – veterans or otherwise – who attend games. He knows firsthand the sacrifices each service member or veteran is required to make and is sure to acknowledge it whenever he gets a chance. Being a veteran and NFL coach, Kotwica appreciates the Salute to Service campaign each season in how the League honors, empowers, and connects with the brave men and women who ensure our freedom.
|New England Patriots||Joe Cardona (Long Snapper)
Cardona serves a patriotic double duty, as a Long Snapper for the New England Patriots and commissioned Lieutenant in the Naval Reserves. Since he arrived in New England, Cardona has been one of the most active players in the community. In 2018, Robert Kraft presented him with the Patriots Ron Burton Community Service Award and recognized him for his outstanding commitment to supporting military families and veterans. In 2016, following a fire at Joint Base Cape Cod, Joe visited with military families at the base and supported a drive to help replace items lost in the fire. He also led a handful of free football clinics for military children at bases across New England. Additionally, Joe took part in Brothers of Life at Gillette Stadium. The event, hosted annually by the Krafts, invites Israeli wounded soldiers to meet with American wounded soldiers. Cardona’s commitment to supporting our nation’s military goes well beyond his community efforts. Cardona attended the Naval Academy where he was a four-year player as a long snapper. During his rookie season in the NFL, Cardona balanced a second full-time job serving as an Ensign in the Navy and a staff officer at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island. As a service member, Cardona has performed more than a dozen re-enlistment and retirement ceremonies at Gillette Stadium. He has hosted multiple re-enlistment ceremonies, including ones held immediately after practice where he changed from his football uniform into his Navy one to lead the ceremony attended by fellow players and coaches. Cardona, who participates annually in pinning ceremonies of Vietnam veterans and Memorial Day flag planting, also coordinated an effort with his teammates and coaches to donate more than 200 tickets to military members for a Sunday night matchup. All the invitees returned from deployment within the previous six months and were welcomed onto the field by players during pregame warmups.
|New Orleans Saints||Demario Davis (Linebacker)
New Orleans Saints Linebacker Demario Davis comes from a family with extensive military service and respect for its importance. His father, Steven Davis, is a veteran of 32 years in the U.S. Army, a former member of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, and had six combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Davis also has two cousins currently serving. Knowing the commitment required when a family member serves, Davis works with children of active-duty service members through his Devoted Dreamers Foundation, which specializes in teaching young people important life skills. His latest commitment to youth in the New Orleans area, many with close ties to the military, is his Devoted Dreamers Academy that debuted at the start of the 2022-23 school year. The academy is an after-school program, featuring tutoring, a seven-on-seven football team, life skills training and exposure to aspects of sports business administration. In 2021, Davis and four other NFL stars participated in an episode of Family Feud against a group of NFL legends. Davis and his teammates donated their winnings to the Fisher House Foundation, a nonprofit that builds homes located at military and Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers where families can stay free of charge while a loved one is in the hospital. As a co-founder of the S.H.I.E.L.D 1 Foundation, which aims to break cycles of generational poverty through empowerment, Davis has a long-term vision to assist veterans with services including long term health and disability insurance, mental health services, professional development, and financial literacy. “I think Celebrities and athletes get looked up to all the time, but our military are among the real heroes in our nation,” said Davis. “These are the people who should be celebrated as heroes in our country, who constantly lay their lives on the line for us to enjoy our freedom.”
|New York Giants||Sergeant Kevin Farrell (Club Staff)
Sergeant Kevin Farrell, New York Giants Security, embodies the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign to honor, connect and empower service members, veterans, and their families. Farrell honors the sacrifices made by military personnel and veterans by sharing his own experiences through short stories. While deployed in 2012 to Kabul, Afghanistan with the 508th Military Police Company, his first story about his relationship while in the military was published in the New York Times. After his second deployment in 2015 with the 328th Military Police Company to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Farrell became a member of the New York University’s Iraq/Afghanistan Creative Writing Group and was featured three times in Cornell University’s Literary Magazine, EPOCH, for his stories about military life. Sharing these stories speaks to the incredible sacrifice he’s made for our country and how his service changed his life. After all, it was books written by his favorite authors that inspired him to enlist in the first place. After his seven years serving in the U.S. Army were over, Farrell found a way to continue his work in the military community. In 2016, he volunteered with a nonprofit called Stand Down of North Jersey, which connects homeless military veterans and their families with service providers that address their physical, educational, employment and personal needs. He was also a volunteer firefighter and medical first responder from 2007-2011 and volunteered with the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps in 2009. Farrell recently ran the Army Ten Miler race, which serves to empower service members, promote the Army and support community relations, and he ran the Tunnel to Towers 5K to honor those lives lost during 9/11. Giving back to the community, especially the military community, is extremely important to him and he hopes his experiences inspire others to do the same.
|New York Jets||Harrison Bernstein (Former Intern Coach)
Harrison Bernstein, former New York Jets Intern Coach, founded Soldiers To Sidelines (STS), a nationally recognized 501c3 Veteran Service Organization that provides a renewed sense of purpose for Service Members, Veterans, Military Spouses, and Gold Star Families to become character-based sports coaches in their communities. The military makes great coaches because of their extensive training in leadership, motivation, and team success. By further educating and training Service Members, Veterans, and Military Spouses to become character-based coaches Bernstein’s organization simultaneously fills the need for better coaching in sports and provides veterans with purposeful work serving their communities. Soldiers To Sidelines is building an army of veteran coaches that model the U.S. military values of duty, integrity, ethics, honor, courage, and loyalty. To date, STS coaches have positively influenced approximately 45,000 young athletes. Through their impact, veterans attain mental well-being, connectedness, fulfillment and purpose as they continue to serve their country as a coach. Most recently Bernstein authored and published a book called The Everyday Coach: Harnessing the Magic of Influence. The book is provided free to every STS Coach and all profits from sales support the non-profit. Accompanying the book, Bernstein hosts a podcast called Harrison Bernstein’s Everyday Coach, which highlights leadership lessons learned from military heroes, business executives, and coaches to steward the craft of coaching in everyday life.
|Philadelphia Eagles||Jemal Singleton (Assistant Head Coach and Running Backs Coach)
Jemal Singleton, the son of an Air Force Sergeant, followed in his father’s footsteps when he began his military career at the Air Force Academy. A three-year starter at running back for the Falcons, Singleton’s leadership led him to becoming one of only six players in program history to be named a team captain twice. Following his graduation from the Air Force Academy, he spent two years at Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville, Arkansas, where he served as the Chief of Media Relations. During that time, he deployed to Tbilisi, Georgia, in support of the Georgia Train and Equip Program (GTEP), an American-sponsored 18-month, $64-million program aimed at increasing the capabilities of the Georgian armed forces by training and equipping four 600-man battalions with light weapons, vehicles, and communications. In 2003, he returned to the Air Force Academy to serve as the Executive Officer for former Director of Athletics, Ret. Col. Randy Spetman, before joining the Air Force Football coaching staff. As part of his ongoing commitment to service, he remains focused on supporting veterans and military efforts in the community. He has been involved with multiple military organizations, including the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF). Since joining the Eagles coaching staff as the running backs/assistant head coach in 2021, Singleton has consistently dedicated his time to the military community, from visiting veterans at the local Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital to spending time with military members attending Eagles games and practices.
|Pittsburgh Steelers||John Wodarek (Club Staff – Event Operations Manager)
While John Wodarek manages a lot of the activities that take place at Acrisure Stadium as the Event Operations Manager, his real passion is doing everything he can for the military community in the Pittsburgh area. Wodarek, who is the son of a veteran, embraces each pillar of the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign to honor, empower, and connect with our nation’s service members, veterans, and their families. He serves as the Steelers’ liaison with the military community, working with various organizations to aid those who served our country and continue to serve. He works tirelessly to grow relationships with military programs, services, local bases, and veterans’ organizations. He coordinates with them to provide countless opportunities, including our “Heroes Night Out” at Acrisure Stadium, the annual event which honors hundreds of post 9-11 veterans for their service and sacrifice. The U.S. Steel “Salute Our Heroes” event is an annual program which honors one veteran at each Steelers home game. Wodarek starts early in the offseason researching “unsung” heroes who don’t often get the recognition they deserve. He works with the veterans and their families to encourage them to share their stories and experiences with Steelers Nation. One of Wodarek’s most memorable experiences was working with local veterans to provide them with life changing service dogs to empower them in their daily lives. His continued relationship with the Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center has opened doors for veterans and given them hope and the understanding that people care. Wodarek’s work even extends to the families of military members, which he supports by creating memorable reunion events for families with their deployed service members and arranging experiences for members of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) during training camp, Pro Bowl and even Super Bowl trips.
|San Francisco 49ers||George Kittle (Tight End)
George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers Tight End, has exemplified what it means to honor, empower, and connect with military members, veterans and their families since entering the league. Kittle’s appreciation for the military community is rooted in family with his Uncle Pat, Grandfather Carl, and other loved ones who have served. He honors the sacrifices of service members and the efforts of military nonprofits through the My Cause My Cleats initiative, recognizing the Pat Tillman Foundation (PTF) in 2018, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) from 2019 to 2021, and Merging Vets & Players (MVP) in 2022. In the 2021 season, Kittle purchased over 150 tickets to donate to the National Guard. This year, he will host service members at every 49ers home and away game, extending his displays of appreciation nationwide. In 2020, Kittle and his family founded the Hidden Pearls Podcast (HPP) to connect with military veterans to unite the world through storytelling. Recently, HPP joined “Diving With Heroes” in Cozumel to reflect on the benefits of scuba diving by veterans, especially those with physical disabilities. Kittle donated over $25,000 to charities selected by hosted veterans on the podcast last season. Kittle empowers service members and their loved ones by using his passion for football and teamwork to encourage others to overcome adversity. Since building a relationship with TAPS at the 2018 Pro Bowl, Kittle has sustained long term relationships with families who have lost a loved one to service. After gifting the family of fallen Army Sergeant Martin LaMar tickets to Super Bowl LIV, Kittle has spent multiple seasons reconnecting with the LaMars by hosting them at Training Camp practices. LaMar’s purple heart medal, gifted to Kittle by LaMar’s family in 2020, still hangs in Kittle’s locker as a reminder of the sacrifices made by our nation’s heroes.
|Seattle Seahawks||John Schneider (General Manager and Executive Vice President)
Seattle Seahawks General Manager John Schneider dedicates his time to the local military community by honoring, empowering, and connecting with service members, veterans, and their families. Since 2012, he has purchased and donated four tickets per home game to local military service members who have recently received military honors or accolades. New this year, he added sideline passes to the experience and made the service members his personal guests, spending time with each attendee on the sidelines pregame. Beyond the individual recognition and time spent with Schneider, this program is valued at over $18,000. As part of the team’s Merging Vets & Players (MVP) organizational huddles, Schneider regularly speaks openly and candidly to the group about his own father’s military service and how being part of a military family impacted his life. During the team’s special “Military Day” at Seahawks Training Camp, Schneider greeted more than 100 service members in attendance and cheered them on during the team’s USAA Military Combine event following practice. Schneider was also the featured speaker at the Seahawks’ 2022 Change of Command Ceremony to officially welcome the team’s honored military unit for the 2022 season. At the event, Schneider addressed more than 300 Marines and sailors at Bangor Trident Base to reinforce the Seahawks’ commitment to the local military community and communicate a message of inspiration, support and appreciation for their sacrifices and dedication to our country. Schneider supports the team’s year-round commitment to the military community that includes inviting over 700 military service members to our home games, veteran support through our Task Force 12 non-profit organizations, and unique opportunities for the entire military community.
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Ryan Jensen (Center)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Center Ryan Jensen makes Salute to Service efforts a priority through relationships, outreach programs and gameday initiatives. Jensen’s grandfather served in Vietnam and Korea as a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Jensen’s uncle followed his footsteps into the Army, and Jensen’s adopted brother served in the Marine Corps. In 2014, Jensen made a special bond with a five‐year‐old boy named Cooper, whose father was tragically killed in action before Cooper was born. Through the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Jensen remained in contact with the family. For the past several years, he has honored Cooper and TAPS through the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats initiative, bringing awareness and support to Gold Star Families who are grieving the loss of a member in the armed forces. Annually, Jensen has supported the Buccaneers’ Schwarzkopf Military Family of the Year Awards, which honors military families from each branch of the military. He has also visited MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa through the United Service Organizations (USO) Central Florida to promote fundraising efforts for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and lead the team’s support for Military Day at Training Camp. Jensen has donated nearly $60,000 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation for his community ticket program “Jensen’s G.I. Joes,” which provides memorable gameday experiences for military families. Over the past year, Jensen found a new and unique way to make an impact when he connected with Southeastern Guide Dogs to provide a $75,000 donation to sponsor three service dogs that will provide companionship and daily assistance for service members recovering from injury. This effort, along with visiting local Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and hosting zoom calls to support active‐duty military families, is another example of the way the Bucs’ Center continues to give back to the local military community.
|Tennessee Titans||Clifford Thomas (Club Staff – Operations Technician)
Clifford (Cliff) Thomas is an Operations Technician for the Tennessee Titans who plays a vital role in the maintenance and operations of Nissan Stadium, home of the Titans. Most importantly, Thomas served three years, six months and 21 days in the United States Army. During his time in the military, he fought bravely overseas for the United States in the Vietnam War. He has remained close to many of his friends from his time in the military. Over the years, Thomas has utilized his passion for young people to develop and facilitate mentoring programs for the children of his comrades. With a strong emphasis on mental health and workforce development, he intentionally coaches each individual on creating and achieving life goals through a commitment to health and wellness. He also spends extensive time during the holidays working closely with Toys for Tots with his friends from the Nashville veteran community. In addition to his direct support of the military community, he spends his time volunteering at Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, which serves a number of local veterans. The Tennessee Titans thank Cliff Thomas for his years of dedicated service to this country, and his continued support and commitment to our organization.
|Washington Commanders||Ron Rivera (Head Coach)
Through every hardship and challenge, Coach Rivera credits his success in the face of adversity to his military upbringing and the values instilled in him growing up the son of a 32-year-career Commissioned Officer of the U. S. Army, Eugenio Rivera. Rivera has spent the entirety of his 11-year career as a Head Coach giving back to a military community that has defined his success as a leader in the league. He has continued his great work with the military by joining in a number of initiatives this year. In May, Rivera, Commanders players Jonathan Allen and Jamin Davis, and Co-Owner and Co-CEO Tanya Snyder surprised departing troops with a visit at BWI Airport where the team passed out care packages to troops as they waited to board their planes. Rivera also took time in training camp to visit with over 250 active and former members of the military at the club’s Salute to Service Day. Additionally, he brought the entire team to Joint Base Andrews for a practice in front of the troops before the first preseason game and hosted nine wounded/paralyzed veterans at Operation Warrior Wishes in Training Camp. Rivera hosted Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) families at the OrthoVirginia Training Center at Commanders Park for the second year in a row. He is also donating all the proceeds from his appearances on the league-wide SiriusXM NFL Radio channel to the United Service Organizations (USO).
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. Among numerous events this season, USAA hosted “NFL Boot Camps” during training camp with multiple teams, where military members competed in drills similar to those used at the NFL Combine. For more information on how USAA honors and appreciates our military, please visit SaluteToService.com. Fans can join the NFL and USAA in honoring the military community all year long by visiting NFL.com/Salute.
Salute to Service
Salute to Service is the NFL’s year-long initiative to honor, empower, and connect our nation’s service members, veterans, and their families. Since 2011, this effort has raised more than $58 million for military and veteran support organizations such as the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF), Pat Tillman Foundation (PTF), Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), United Service Organizations (USO) and Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP). For more information on Salute to Service, visit NFL.com/Salute.
Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is among the leading providers of insurance, banking, and investment and retirement solutions to more than 13 million members of the U.S. military, veterans who have honorably served and their families. Headquartered in San Antonio, USAA has offices in eight U.S. cities and three overseas locations and employs around 38,000 people worldwide. Each year, the company contributes to national and local nonprofits in support of military families and communities where employees live and work. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com.
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