By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
On Tuesday, the NFL announced the three finalists for this season’s USAA Salute to Service award. The award is given annually to those in the NFL community recognizing “exceptional efforts to honor and support members of the military community.”
Among those nominated this year is Patriots long snapper and Naval Academy graduate Joe Cardona. Drafted by the Patriots in 2015, Cardona has been heavily involved in the local military community since arriving in New England. Per the league’s press release:
Joe Cardona attended the Naval Academy for four years prior to his 2015 rookie season where he was an Ensign in the Navy and worked as a staff officer at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island. That season, he was working his second job four days a week, which included a 24-hour shift during the team’s “day off.” In 2017, Joe was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade and served as a junior commissioned officer in the United States 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. Joe 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, Joe 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. Each year during Memorial Day weekend, Joe 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. Joe 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.
The other two finalists for the award are 49ers general manager John Lynch, and Falcons president and CEO Steve Cannon. A winner will be announced at the NFL Honors ceremony, held the night before Super Bowl LV.
Past winners of the award include then-Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, then-Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson, as well as coaches John Harbaugh and Dan Quinn. Cardona would be the first Patriot to ever receive the award.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.