FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona is the team's nominee for the "Salute to Service Award," which is presented by USAA and the NFL. The award recognizes NFL players, coaches, personnel and alumni who demonstrate an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community, as nominated by NFL clubs.
Teams from all 32 NFL clubs have made nominations for the award. 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," USAA Chief Brand Officer and former Marine officer Tony Wells said. "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."
Cardona is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. During his rookie season in 2015, Cardona was an Ensign in the Navy and worked as a staff officer at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island. The following year he transferred to the Navy Reserves.
In 2017, Cardona was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade and served as a junior commissioned officer in the Navy and in 2019, Joe was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in the Navy. He proudly wears his Naval uniform as the team boards the plane for away games, the NFL said in the nomination announcement.
Cardona 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 military bases across New England and replaced military family toys that were burned in a fire three years ago at Joint Base Cape Cod.
In 2017, he rallied teammates and coaches to each donate a pair of tickets to their game against Atlanta and over 150 military members, who had recently returned from deployment, were invited to the game and participated in a special pregame ceremony.
The NFL says each year during Memorial Day weekend, Cardona 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. He also offers his support to the Travis Manion Foundation, a nonprofit that empowers veterans and families of fallen heroes to develop character in future generations.
Other nominations this year include Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, Bears tight end Jimmy Graham, Washington Football Team linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, and more. Click here to see a full list of nominees.
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, an insurance provider 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.