By DJ Harding
Every year for the past 12 years, the NFL awards a player for their contributions in helping and honoring the military community. The 3 finalists are George Kittle, Hayden Hurst, and Ron Rivera. When asked about the three finalists USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs John Bird said “All three of this year’s finalists for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA serve America’s military community in different but impactful ways, with each deserving recognition for their exemplary commitment to those who wear the uniform,From caring for the mental health of veterans, to connecting with military families, and the unwavering support of active-duty servicemembers, USAA thanks and salutes Hayden, George, and Coach Rivera for their commitment to our military, veterans and their families, and to all NFL fans for helping determine this year’s worthy finalists.” USAA will contribute $25,000 in the award recipient’s honor to the official aid societies representing each of the military branches. The NFL will match USAA’s donation of $25,000, which will be donated to the award recipient’s military charity of choice.
The award will be determined by the following judges
- VICE ADMIRAL JOHN BIRD (Ret.), U.S. Navy veteran, USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs
- LENNY BANDY, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and NFL Vice President of Security
- CHAD HENNINGS, U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, three-time Super Bowl champion
- JIM MORA, SR., U.S. Marine Corps veteran, former NFL head coach
- ANDREW BECK, Denver Broncos Tight End and 2021 Salute to Service Award recipient
The Finalists have gone out their way with support, making some big strides in aiding the community.
Hayden Hurst the Cincinnati bengals tight end has been a growing national voice in the mental health community, sharing his own battles with depression and anxiety in 2020. Hurst that same year made a video to support Marines during Sucicide Prevention Month. The Bengals Tight End stayed committed to this continuing outreach through his foundation called The Hayden Hurst Family Foundation. Hurst even pledged $20,000 to the Top Dogg K9 Foundation.
George Kittle is also a tight end from the San Francisco 49ers who has roots in the military with his Uncle Pat, Grandfather Carl, and other loved ones serving. Kittle has done a lot 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. Since building a relationship with TAPS at the 2018 Pro Bowl. Kittle, through TAPS, has built relationships with families of fallen soldiers. A great example is sending the family of fallen Army sergeant Martin Lamar to Super Bowl LIV, also donating 150 tickets in the 2021 season.
Washington coach Ron Rivera, like Kittle, has his own military upbringing with his father Eugenio Rivera serving 32 years. Rivera has spent his entire coaching career giving back to the military.
The award will be given out on February 9th during the NFL at 9 pm ET on NBC.