Everything you need to know about the NFL’s Salute to Service Award

Everything you need to know about the NFL’s Salute to Service Award

The NFL and USAA’s Salute to Service efforts aren’t limited to the month of November. It’s a year-long commitment from the league to honor, empower, and connect with service members, veterans, and their families. The result is the dedication of NFL players, coaches and staff to do some pretty amazing things for the military-veteran community

At the end of the NFL season, the NFL and USAA present the Salute to Service Award to someone in the NFL or one of its 32 teams who has exemplified the spirit of service through its three areas of commitment: Honor, Empower, and Connect. Every year, each franchise nominates an outstanding member of its organization – anyone from players, staff, coaches or league alumni, who have gone above and beyond to reach out to the military community. 

This year, the field of nominees includes some of the NFL’s best players, staffers who are veterans themselves, NFL players who left the league to join the military, top coaches and even cheerleaders and a football legend. Receiving the Salute to Service Award is not about who they are in the league, it’s about what they do for the military. 


Honoring the military means showing gratitude to service members for their sacrifice by offering real support for the military, veterans and their families. This comes in the form of partnerships, grants and recognition, that increases the connection between the NFL and the military community, increases patriotism and public support for the most American of institutions, and strengthens organizations that support the military community 


Empowering the military community means using the NFL’s platform, as well as the platform of its players, coaches and staff to make a positive impact for those in need. From helping wounded warriors to increasing physical and mental health, empowerment improves the long-term prosperity for America’s military and allows veterans to continue serving their communities. 

Everything you need to know about the NFL’s Salute to Service Award
Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, commanding general, U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, poses with Fort Benning Soldiers, and Atlanta Falcons players, cheerleaders and staff during the NFL Salute to Service at McGinnis-Wickham Hall, Fort Benning, Georgia Jan. 29, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace)


Football brings people together and bringing service members and military families together through a shared love of football is what connecting with Salute for Service is all about, but it also creates opportunities for engaging those communities. The NFL can increase social connections throughout the military while promoting American culture in local communities.  

Nominees from each team are selected using these three areas of support. Three of the 32 nominees are selected as finalists, and one of those will receive the prestigious award. The 2022 season was the first time NFL fans were asked to vote for the three finalists from each of the nominees. For the month of November, each fan was given one vote per day to determine who would make it to the final round. 

Finalists are announced in January, before the Super Bowl. The 2022 finalists are Cincinnati Bengals Tight End Hayden Hurst, San Francisco 49ers Tight End George Kittle and Washington Commanders Head Coach Ron Rivera.

Once finalists are chosen, a select panel weighs each finalist’s contribution to the military-veteran community. The panel includes the previous year’s Salute to Service Award recipient, along with players, coaches and veterans.

The recipient of the 2021 Salute to Service Award was the Denver Broncos’ Andrew Beck. He joins the panel with Chad Hennings, an Air Force Academy graduate and three-time Super Bowl champion, Jim Mora, Sr., a Marine Corps veteran and former NFL head coach, Lenny Bandy, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and NFL Vice President of Security, and Vice Admiral (Ret.) Bird, USAA’s Senior Vice President of Military Affairs.

As the presenting sponsor of the Salute to Service Award, USAA contributes $25,000 in the recipient’s name to aid societies of all branches while the NFL doubles down on the recipient’s dedication to service by donating another $25,000 to the nonprofit of their choice.  

Past recipients of the Salute to Service Award include:

2021:  Andrew Beck

2020:  Steve Cannon

2019:  Donnie Edwards

2018:  Ben Garland

2017:  Andre Roberts

2016:  Dan Quinn

2015:  Vincent Jackson

2014:  Jared Allen

2013:  John Harbaugh

2012:  Charles Tillman

2011:  K.S. “Bud” Adams Jr.

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