The Super Bowl is known for a lot of things, but giving out free access isn’t one of them. For military members, veterans, and their families, the experience might be a little different. USAA, as a financial institution, isn’t just a major partner of the NFL — they’re integral to the league’s Salute to Service every November, and USAA is determined to give its members a chance to take part.
For those who have never been to the NFL’s biggest game, part of the experience is literally The NFL Experience. For days prior to Super Bowl Sunday, the league puts on a huge, open forum featuring player appearances, giveaways, games, food, and fun, along with a chance to kick a field goal, throw a touchdown pass, run the 40-meter dash (or the entire combine), and even play as an actual player through virtual reality.
Even if you don’t have tickets to the Big Game, the NFL experience is only , half that for USAA members. Best of all, military service members get a little something extra from their experience – all for free.
USAA has its own little corner of the NFL Experience called the Salute to Service Lounge, and it’s open to anyone with a Department of Defense or Veterans Affairs identification card. In this special room, attendees can sit, relax, enjoy free snacks and drinks.
Oh, and they get to listen to current and former NFL players talk about their time on the gridiron, answer any and all questions from their military fans, and even pose for photos, sign autographs, and shake hands — all at no cost. They all just want to do the most for the U.S. Military and its NFL fans, and they show it all year long, not just during Salute to Service Month.
Almost all the players who came to visit USAA’s Salute to Service Lounge also teamed up with USAA and other partners to donate tickets to the big game to a service member or their family.
NFL legend Roger Staubach (left) chats with WATM’s own August Dannehl
The 2019 Salute to Service Lounge saw NFL legend and Naval Academy graduate Roger Staubach come by and spend time with fans. Current Falcons Coach Dan Quinn and Atlanta Falcons Guard Ben Garland stopped by the lounge to talk about highlighting the military community and what it’s like to host a Super Bowl without being part of it.
Quinn and USAA teamed up to get tickets to the big game for the family of Marine Corps Pvt. 1st Class Zachary R. Boland, who died in 2016 during training at Parris Island. Garland, a former player for the Air Force Falcons, was this year’s Salute to Service Winner.
Colorado Air National Guardsman and Atlanta Falcons Guard, Ben Garland.
Also visiting the USAA Salute to Service lounge this year (who also visited USAA’s Super Bowl LII Salute to Service Lounge in Minneapolis in 2018) was the Arizona Cardinals’ future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald. This year, Fitzgerald honored fellow Cardinal Pat Tillman during the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” Campaign, which benefited the Tillman Foundation. He has a very close connection to the military, as he comes from a military family and wanted something to reflect his family’s service as well as Tillman’s.
Kirk Cousins answers some fans’ questions at the USAA Salute to Service Lounge
Other visitors to the lounge were Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, Denver Broncos quarterback Case Keenum, and former Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas.
These NFL players and the many, many others like them are regular faces at USAA’s annual Super Bowl Salute to Service Lounge. They spend all season honoring military members past and present but make it a big point to show their military fans how much they’re appreciated.