NEW YORK – With Super Bowl XLVI around the corner and the spotlight on the field, the NFL is recognizing excellence off the field by announcing today the two finalists for the League’s inaugural Salute to Service Award presented by USAA.
USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other services to members of the U.S. military and their families, is the NFL’s first Official Military Appreciation Sponsor.
Tennessee Titans owner K.S. “Bud” Adams Jr. and Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh were selected for their exceptional efforts to honor and support members of the military community. The first Salute to Service Award will be presented to one of the finalists at the inaugural NFL Honors event that will air on NBC Saturday, February 4 at 9 PM ET. In addition, a $25,000 contribution will be made by USAA in the winner’s honor to the aid societies representing all five military branches.
“We should never take for granted the tremendous sacrifices made daily by our nation’s military,” said Steve Speakes, executive vice president of USAA’s external affairs and a retired Army lieutenant general. “Together with the NFL, we are launching the Salute to Service Award as a way to recognize those in the NFL community who appreciate and honor that sacrifice, enrich the lives of military members and encourage others to do the same.”
An ardent backer of the military in his 52 years as owner, Bud Adams’ enthusiasm for the military began with his service in the U.S. Navy from 1942-46. His commitment to supporting the military followed him and the franchise to Tennessee where he focused his efforts on recognizing the service men and women of nearby Fort Campbell, home to the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, as well as the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Night Stalkers) and the 5th Special Forces Group (Green Berets).
Since 1999, more than 11,000 Fort Campbell soldiers have been guests of Adams at Titans home games, and it’s very common for Adams to host military members in his suite and award game balls as a tribute to their service. Adams’ support at Fort Campbell includes directing the team to make several visits during the year where Titans players, cheerleaders, and staff can participate in autograph sessions at the PX, greet patients at the Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, provide programs to the on-base middle school and visit with the on-base high school football team.
Similarly, John Harbaugh’s dedication includes frequent base visits, and he relishes interaction with the military community. His passion for supporting the troops was felt immediately by the Ravens’ organization after being named head coach in 2008. Harbaugh was the main driver in the team’s decision to institute a Military Appreciation Day, an annual event which was established during his first training camp with the team. Since then, an estimated 2,000 service members have enjoyed preferred seating and opportunities to meet with players and coaches during Ravens’ camp.
Away from the field, Harbaugh often recruits Ravens players and coaches to join him during base visits, and even took members of his team to the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, Calif., last December in the middle of the Ravens’ playoff run. He has also spent significant time and funds putting together care packages for soldiers overseas, and caches of school supplies for military families.
In December, 22 NFL clubs nominated for this award coaches, active and retired players, and team executives and personnel who best demonstrated support for the military community. The submissions were evaluated by a panel of judges based on the positive effect of the individual’s efforts on the military community, the type of service conducted, the thoroughness of the program and level of commitment.
The panel of judges, consisting of representatives from the U.S. military, the NFL and USAA, includes:
* Roger Staubach, Naval Academy graduate, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback and Super Bowl MVP
* Chad Hennings, Air Force Academy graduate, three-time Super Bowl champion
* Rocky Bleier, U.S. Army veteran, four-time Super Bowl champion
* Jim Mora, Sr., Marine Corps veteran, former NFL head coach
* General Stephen Speakes, U.S. Army veteran, USAA executive vice president
* Eric Grubman, Naval Academy graduate, executive vice president-NFL Ventures and Business Operations
“Bud and John’s efforts demonstrate how members of the NFL family can inspire us both on and off the field,” said Roger Staubach. “Their service to the military community is a reminder that we can never do enough to show our appreciation for all the men and women in uniform who defend and protect us.”
All Salute to Service nominees are listed below:
KS Bud Adams Jr. Tennessee Titans Founder, Owner, Chairman of the Board
Jared Allen Minnesota Vikings Defensive End
Jason Baker Carolina Panthers Punter
Tom Coughlin New York Giants Head Coach
Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
Kris Dielman San Diego Chargers Left Guard
Mark Dominik Tampa Bay Buccaneers General Manager
Anthony Fasano Miami Dolphins Wide Receiver
Mike Flood Seattle Seahawks Vice President, Community Relations & Special Projects
Drayton Florence Buffalo Bills Defensive Back
John Harbaugh Baltimore Ravens Head Coach
Robert Wood Johnson IV New York Jets Chairman & CEO
Gary Kubiak Houston Texans Head Coach
Lonie Paxton Denver Broncos Long Snapper
Troy Polamalu Pittsburgh Steelers Strong Safety
Marco Rivera Green Bay Packers Guard (Retired)
Joe Thomas Cleveland Browns Offensive Lineman
Charles Tillman Chicago Bears Cornerback
Chad Walker Detroit Lions Community Affairs Coordinator
Washington Redskins Cheerleaders
Roddy White Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver
Kurt Wisenbaugh Jacksonville Jaguars Manager, Events and Game Operations