Today, the NFL and USAA, the Official NFL Salute to Service Partner, announced the 32 nominees for the tenth annual Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. For the second year in a row, Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen has been nominated for the prestigious honor, which annually recognizes NFL players, 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 to air 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."
"It's an honor to use our platform to recognize and support the heroes who serve our country," said Jensen. "This recognition is humbling, but it's really a testament to all the service members who protect us. My family has been connected to the military for generations, and during this particularly challenging year, we remain thankful to the Armed Forces – and their families – who sacrifice to ensure our freedom."
Jensen maintains an appreciation for the military and makes Salute to Service a priority through everyday relationships and outreach initiatives. His grandfather, Keith Palmer, 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 brother, Alec Hatfield, is currently serving in the Marine Corps – having completed two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Given those ties, it is no surprise that Jensen has a special place in his heart for children of military families. One bond in particular is with a young boy named Cooper, whose father was tragically killed in action before Cooper was born. Through TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Jensen has stayed in contact with the family and last year, Jensen honored Cooper and TAPS through the NFL's annual My Cause, My Cleats initiative.
Relationships like the one Jensen has developed with Cooper inspire him to work with a variety of military outreach organizations. During his time with the Buccaneers, Jensen has visited MacDill Air Force Base on numerous occasions and has been an active participant in team initiatives such as Military Day at Training Camp and the General H Norman Schwarzkopf Military Family of the Year Awards, which honors military families from each branch of the armed forces. The ceremony, which is hosted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, honors a family from each branch of the military for their integrity, courage, commitment, and service before self. Jensen has also 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 Veteran's Assistance hospitals to raise the spirits of veterans recovering from injury and illness.
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 USAA'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 other special events honoring and thanking veterans, active duty service members and their families.
On Sunday, November 8, when the Buccaneers hosted the New Orleans Saints for the team's Salute to Service Game, presented by USAA, the Buccaneers showcased military appreciation tributes throughout the night to honor those who have sacrificed and served our country. Among the acknowledgements was a halftime video of a special enlistment ceremony that took place at Raymond James Stadium earlier in the week. General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., Commander of the United States Central Command, led the ceremony which enlisted 44 service members in the Army (5), Army National Guard (5), Navy (12), Marines (12), Air Force (5) and Coast Guard (5). Fleet Master Chief James Herdel, Senior Enlisted Leader of the United States Central Command, was also in attendance. The Enlistees received tokens of appreciation from the team as well a special thank you message from Jensen, the team's Salute to Service Award nominee.