Six veterans who became famous sports icons - We Are The Mighty
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Six veterans who became famous sports icons

The military promotes values that are not just essential on the battlefield or during training, but applicable to other areas of life. Teamwork, sacrifice, and competitiveness are essential tenets of the military that are also essential in any sport. Given this association, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many successful athletes served in the military prior to excelling in their respective sports. Here are six sports legends who exemplified greatness both in their service and athletic careers. 

Six veterans who became famous sports icons
The San Diego Chargers’ head coach Marty Schottenheimer gives an autograph to Lt. Ryan Phillips aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during the Chargers’ visit to the ship.

Marty Schottenheimer

Marty Schottenheimer was an NFL coach for 21 years, and despite never winning a Super Bowl, he is one of only eight coaches to reach 200 regular-season victories. Like all great coaches, Schottenheimer’s excellence isn’t limited to his numbers. He created “Martyball,” a gritty, simple style which he explained in an interview for ESPN: “Run the ball, don’t throw interceptions, don’t fumble the ball, and then, at the end of the day, if you are able to do those things, you are going to win a bunch of games.” 

Schottenheimer was nicknamed “The Great Resurrector“ for his ability to turn losing teams upside down. He best showcased that skill in the 2004 season, when he led the San Diego Chargers to a 12-4 record after a 4-12 mark on the previous one. He was named Coach of the Year that season. 

Schottenheimer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014 and recently passed away on February 8, 2021.

Six veterans who became famous sports icons
Gregg Popovich as an Air Force cadet.

Gregg Popovich

Popovich is widely regarded as one of the top five coaches in basketball history. Currently the head coach for the San Antonio Spurs and the U.S.A. Basketball men’s team, Popovich served in the Air Force for five years prior to starting his basketball career. His personality and coaching style is very much shaped by military values such as honesty, accountability, teamwork, and camaraderie. This piece, Michelin restaurants and fabulous wines: Inside the secret team dinners that have built the Spurs’ dynasty, illustrates with great detail how Popovich constantly applies a meticulous, larger-than-basketball, and collectively-oriented approach not just to coaching his team, but also in his personal life.

Popovich’s experience in the military helped him not only survive but thrive in one of the most competitive professional environments in the world: having won five NBA titles as a head coach of the Spurs, he is the only coach in NBA history, along with Phil Jackson and John Kundla, to win five or more NBA championships with the same team. He also is, by far, the longest-tenured NBA head coach having signed with the San Antonio Spurs in December of 1996. The next coach on the list? Erik Spoelstra, who has been Miami Heat’s head coach since April 2008. 

But these numbers alone don’t reflect the brilliance of Popovich’s career. In a league known for frequent changes of coaches, Popovich has not only managed to win consistently at the highest level, but has also created one of the most powerful and iconic basketball cultures worldwide, with teams always known for their passing, defense, and individual sacrifice for the benefit of the whole. 

“I know who I am and it started in the military where they broke me down to zero and put me in a box… And didn’t care if I was this, that or the other in high school. I was nothing. And they built me back up so that I knew what I could do and what I couldn’t do. I knew my strengths. I knew my place. I knew it wasn’t all about me. I knew it was about teamwork. And that’s how I live. That’s the deal,” Popovich said in a 2012 address to a crowd of All-Army, All-Air Force, All-Navy, and All-Marine Corps players.

Six veterans who became famous sports icons
Former San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson speaks with a U.S. Army All-American West Team family member at the Blossom Athletic Center in San Antonio, Dec. 31, 2012. (U.S. Army Photo)

David Robinson

Widely regarded as one of the best power forwards in basketball history, San Antonio Spurs and NBA legend David Robinson is also known as “The Admiral” because of his service in the Navy from 1983 to 1987, after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. 

Robinson’s impact in the NBA is remarkable. He won two NBA championships with the San Antonio Spurs, a team that epitomized collective play under head coach Gregg Popovich. Robinson is one of only five players in NBA history to record a quadruple-double, which consists of recording 10 or more in four of the following categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals, or blocks. Robinson recorded 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 blocks on February 17, 1994. The Admiral features a unique basketball resume which includes Rookie of the Year, MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, two NBA championships, and three Olympic medals (two golds and a bronze). In 2017, the NBA included Robinson in an official list of the best 50 players in the league’s history.

During his service as a midshipman, Robinson worked as a civil engineer and helped the Navy’s recruiting efforts. 

“I know the price that people pay to serve our country, and so it’s just a blessing to be able to come in and encourage the families here that are paying that price for us,” he said in one of his frequent visits to military families. 

Six veterans who became famous sports icons
Gerald Ford, during practice as a center on the University of Michigan’s Wolverines football team in 1933. (Courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Library via Pentagon)

Gerald Ford

The 38th President of the United States and a World War II Navy veteran Gerald Ford was also a collegiate football phenomenon, a multidisciplinary athlete who would eventually coach football, swimming, and boxing during his time in the military, and a barrier-breaker. As this feature by the Department of Defense points out, in 1975, Ford “signed Public Law 94-106 admitting women to the all-male military colleges — West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy.”

While Ford is evidently more well-known because of his time as a president than because of his sports career, his athletic achievements are worth highlighting. He won collegiate football titles with the University of Michigan Wolverines in 1932 and 1933 and received offers from the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers from the NFL. Yet, he rejected them and instead decided to coach boxing at Yale University. Ford would say that his experiences as a football player helped him get ready for the “rough-and-tumble world of politics.”

Shortly after the start of WWII, Ford “enlisted in the U.S. Navy as an ensign and was assigned as a physical training officer of recruits in North Carolina. After repeated requests to be sent to a combat unit, Ford was sent to the Pacific aboard the U.S.S. Monterey, a light aircraft carrier. He would earn 10 battle stars by war’s end, for participation in engagements at Okinawa, Wake, Taiwan, the Philippines and the Gilbert Islands, among others.”

Six veterans who became famous sports icons
Brooklyn Dodgers baseball player Jackie Robinson in 1950. (National Archives)

Jackie Robinson

Robinson was not only a historical figure in baseball and the civil rights movement, but also a four-sport star (basketball, football, track, and baseball) in high school and college, and a World War II veteran. Prior to debuting in the MLB with the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first-ever black player in the MLB in 1947, “Robinson was drafted and assigned to a segregated Army cavalry unit in Fort Riley, Kansas. In January 1943, Robinson was commissioned a second lieutenant.

Robinson never wavered in his determined stance against segregation. He experienced backlash around the country as an MLB player because of his race, but he was also a victim of racial abuse during his time as an enlisted soldier, as this feature by the U.S. Department of Defense recounts: 

“On July 6, 1944, Robinson boarded an Army bus. The driver ordered Robinson to move to the back of the bus, but Robinson refused. The driver called the military police, who took Robinson into custody. He was subsequently court-martialed, but he was acquitted. After his acquittal, he was transferred to Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, where he served as a coach for Army athletics until receiving an honorable discharge in November 1944.”

Robinson would go on to become one of the best baseball players ever and the only one to have a number (42) retired league-wide. 

Six veterans who became famous sports icons
William Harrison “Jack” Dempsey mock punches magician Harry Houdini, who is held back by boxer Benny Leonard in a photo that dates back to the early 1920s.

William Harrison “Jack” Dempsey

Considered one of the best boxers of all time, World Champion and Hall of Famer Jack Dempsey was the epitome of a self-made man. In his autobiography, he mentioned that, despite growing up poor, he made some money with the bets placed on him to win fights in bars and saloons.

Dempsey jumped to stardom in 1919, when he defeated 6’7″, 245-pound World Heavyweight Champion Jess Willard. Dempsey was 6’1″ and 187 pounds. The videos from that iconic fight illustrate the remarkable size difference between them. 

“I had trained for Willard at the Overland Club on Maumee Bay, an inlet of Lake Erie. Nearly every day Kearns and Trainer Jimmy Deforest reported that I was shaping up much better than Willard. But when I saw big Jess across the ring, without an ounce of fat on his huge frame, I wondered if Kearns and Deforest had been bringing me pleasant but false reports to bolster my courage. I won’t say I was scared as I gazed at Willard, but I’ll admit I began to wonder if I packed enough dynamite to blast the man-mountain down,” Dempsey recounts in his book Championship Fighting.

Dempsey would go on to remain the world heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926. Throughout his life, he displayed courage and the ability to sacrifice. During World War I, he worked in a Philadelphia shipyard and joined New York State National Guard when World War II started. He would then transition to a commission “as a lieutenant in the Coast Guard Reserve, where he was assigned as Director of Physical Education,” and made frequent appearances at “fights, camps, hospital, and War Bond drives… In 1945 he was on the attack transport USS Arthur Middleton for the invasion of Okinawa. In July of 1945, he was assigned to the Commander, 11th Naval District for assignment to Military Morale Duty. He was released from active duty in September 1945. He was given an honorable discharge from the Coast Guard Reserve in 1952.”

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

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That time a baseball player saved Old Glory from the torch

If you were watching Super Bowl LIII, you were probably very interested in the commercials, because the game sure wasn’t of much interest. Maybe you saw an ad for Zaxby’s chicken featuring former NFL center Jeff Saturday and MLB legend Rick Monday.

Long story short, they were ripping on Chick-Fil-A for being closed on Sundays. That’s not important, but I’ll show you the ad anyway.


Rick Monday’s name may not ring a bell for younger NFL and MLB fans, but it’s a guarantee your elders know who he is. Besides being the top prospect for the 1965 MLB draft, playing for the Athletics, Cubs, and Dodgers for 19 seasons and winning a World Series with Los Angeles, Monday is best known for defending the American flag in the middle of a game.

The left-handed center fielder was playing for the Chicago Cubs at the time against the home team LA Dodgers on April 25, 1976. At the bottom of the 4th inning, two strangely dressed hippies made their way onto the baseball field and crouched down in the left center of the outfield.

It was supposed to be an act of protest filmed on live TV. The two men started trying to set an American flag on fire, right there in front of Dodger Stadium, the U.S., and the world. But after the batter in play hit a pop fly, Monday saw what the men were trying to do, ran over to them, and snatched the flag away to thunderous applause.

If you’re going to burn the flag, don’t do it around me. I’ve been to too many veterans’ hospitals and seen too many broken bodies of guys who tried to protect it,” Monday later said.

Monday had served in the Marine Corps Reserve as part of a service obligation for attending Arizona State University.

The two men were arrested and charged with trespassing. Monday took the lighter fluid-soaked flag over to the opposing dugout. When Rick Monday walked to home plate on his next at bat, he came out of the dugout to a standing ovation from the home team’s fans. The story doesn’t end there.

He received the flag as a gift after it was no longer evidence in a criminal case. It was presented to him at Wrigley Field on May 4th, from the LA Dodgers, and he has kept it throughout the years. These days, he and his wife take the flag on fundraising tours across America to raise money for veteran-related issues.

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Why men should care about their BMI

Few things make men gain weight as quickly as fatherhood — men exercise less, eat terribly, and endure hormonal changes that pack on the pounds (and keep them packed). Still, just because new dads strain the scales doesn’t mean they should be nervous about their weight. Weight measurements can only tell guys so much about their health without taking height into account. However, body mass index, or BMI, figures both height and weight in and this can tell fathers far more about the status of their dad bods.

“Being a Dad doesn’t change what his BMI should be,” laughs Keith Ayoob, a pediatric nutritionist and clinical practitioner. “You want to keep it under 25. Over 25 is considered overweight and over 30 is obese. These numbers hold throughout adulthood, dad or not.”


The measurement of BMI was first introduced in the 19th century by Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, who was a mathematician and not physician. His goal was to develop a quick and easy formula to measure obesity. Part of the reason BMI caught on as a popular indicator of health is that it’s easy for anyone to calculate, as long as they know their height and weight. First, a person would multiply how much they weigh in pounds by 703, then divide it by their height in inches squared. If the results are between 18.5 and 25, they’re in a healthy range. If their BMI is above 25 then they’re overweight. If it’s over 30 they’re obese. And if it’s under 18.5, they might want to start drinking Ensure. Although men tend to have higher BMIs than women, the recommendations are the same for both. Anything between 18.5 and 25 is ideal.

Six veterans who became famous sports icons

(Photo by Jenny Hill)

Figuring out your BMI is simple, but it might be a little too simple, some scientists suspect. The biggest criticism of BMI as an overall health indicator is that it does not take into account the difference between muscle and fat. As a result, someone who does not exercise could have a lower BMI than a professional athlete who’s the same height yet weighs more, but that doesn’t necessarily make them healthier.

That said, for most dads who are not pro-athletes, a BMI over 25 is most likely going to signal a need for some changes, which are going to be hard to make with kids around

“Men don’t go through all the changes women do when having kids, but dad’s lifestyle will probably change, and that poses challenges, to be sure,” Ayoob says. One of these changes includes testosterone levels that decline when men have children, as well as with age.

Six veterans who became famous sports icons

(Photo by Jude Beck)

“We know that higher testosterone levels leads to less weight gain,” adds family physician Jeffrey Walden. “So, unfortunately, men in their thirties and forties will have slower metabolic rates overall compared to their 18-year-old self.”

However, Ayoob and Waldern agree that dads should worry less about losing testosterone and more about losing sleep. Sleep deprivation increases stress hormones like cortisol in the body, which can lead to junk food cravings and low energy. Cortisol can actually make bodies swell and hold onto fat cells. As much as diet and exercise can help, parents are never going to get their BMIs under control if they’re only getting five hours of sleep a night.

The best thing dads can do to offset their sleep loss and weight gain is to create and stick to a schedule that includes both exercise and sleep. Maintaining a schedule will help dads find new opportunities to move around, whether that means going for a run or pushing a stroller. Given the physical requirements of fatherhood, it’s possible that dads who exercise will see their BMI go down and their weight stay the same. That’s fine. Strength is not a problem.

Six veterans who became famous sports icons

(Photo by Filios Sazeides)

However, being numbers obsessed can be.

“Numbers can be helpful, but don’t be overly distracted or lose sight of what’s important,” Walden recommends. “Most fathers want to ensure they remain healthy enough to spend quality time with their kids. Keeping this at the forefront can help them reach their long-term goals.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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First a pandemic and now Tom Brady is leaving the Patriots?

Tom Brady is no longer a Patriot – after 20 years.


It’s the end of an era. Whether you love him, hate him, wish you could be him, wish you could be the guy that beat him, Tom Brady has loomed large in two decades of NFL dominance.

20 years. 6 championships. A lifetime of memories. Thank you, Tom.pic.twitter.com/exQPrweT5h

twitter.com

His resume includes:

  • Six Super Bowl titles
  • Three time NFL MVP
  • Four time Super Bowl MVP
  • Nine Super Bowls appearances
  • 14 time Pro-Bowler
  • 30 playoff wins
  • 219 regular-season wins
  • 16 AFC East titles
  • Second all-time in passing touchdowns
  • Second all-time in passing yards
  • Fifth all-time in QB rating

Today, Brady will become something he has not been since the 1990s, an unrestricted free agent. The 42-year-old ageless wonder will test free agency (it should not be much of a test) and will be wearing another team’s colors next season. Brady released a statement via Instagram in which he thanked the Patriots organization, teammates and the fans for his two-decade run. As many football fans know, the Patriots were nothing like the franchise they are now, usually being a struggling team that did not have much success. They had made two Super Bowls previously losing both, including one of the worst losses in Super Bowl history.

Six veterans who became famous sports icons

i.pinimg.com

Then, as the story famously goes, the Patriots drafted a quarterback in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL Draft. Pick #199 was a quarterback out of the University of Michigan that not too many people were excited about. While at Michigan, he was a backup for two years before becoming the starter for the Wolverines his junior year. Heading into his senior year, Brady thought he was a lock to be the starter… only to find out that he had to compete with highly heralded recruit Drew Henson. Brady found himself the unpopular guy on campus as Wolverines fans (and some coaches) seemed to favor the younger QB. The plan was for Brady to start while Henson would come off the bench in the second quarter. Brady would have none of it. He fought tooth and nail and during the season cemented his status as the only QB that Michigan needed that season. Many NFL teams should have seen the tenacity and determination that Brady showed as a potential leader for their team.

Instead, they focused on mechanics and how he looked.

Here is his NFL Combine workout:

Tom Brady 2000 NFL Scouting Combine highlights

www.youtube.com

The Patriots drafted Brady and had him set as a back up to Drew Bledsoe. By this point, the Patriots had turned their franchise around first under the coaching of Bill Parcells and then under the helm of Bill Belichick. Bledsoe was their quarterback for the future. In 2001, he signed a 10 year, 100 million dollar contract, and was their guy that would lead them to glory. A big hit from the New York Jets Mo Lewis changed that fast. Bledsoe suffered massive internal injuries (doctors almost had to perform open chest surgery), and Brady had to step in.

Well, you all know what happened next.

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Brady (to the delight of Pats fans and despair of literally everyone else) would go on to have a career that will be hard for future quarterbacks to match. Yes, you can argue if Montana had it harder. You can argue if Brady is truly the best football “player” or the best at his position. You can argue it was really Belichick’s football genius and Brady is a “system quarterback.”

You can argue all that, but really the argument will fall on deaf ears.

Tom Brady will play for a different team next season. Rumors right now say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the San Diego Los Angeles Chargers (ugh that still hurts to write) are the front runners. He might go to these teams and do amazing, he might do average or he might really suck.

But he will also be 42 years old. There aren’t too many 40+ players in NFL history. There are even fewer that will have teams fighting to bring them on board to win a Super Bowl.

No matter where he ends up, hats off to an amazing athlete and all-time great!

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Here are 7 foot exercises for a stronger foundation

Twenty-six bones, 33 joints, and over 100 ligaments. That’s not your body we’re talking about — that’s just your feet. It’s an awful lot of moving parts to pack into a foot-long space. Throw on 180 or so pounds on top of that, and then consider that if you exercise, every running step you take multiplies the impact of your weight threefold, and you can see the kind of pressure your delicate foot structure is under day in and day out.

The perks of strengthening your feet are multifaceted. First, strong feet give your legs a durable base to push off from when you’re running, cycling, squatting, or doing whatever it is you like to do to stay fit. Second, strong feet are more resistant to foot pain, one of the most common sources of bodily aches right up there with back pain. Tight arches, sore heels, plantar fasciitis — all of these complaints are met with a physical therapist’s advice to build foot strength. By pre-emptively exercising your digits, you might avoid the pain altogether.

Make sense? Great. Here are 7 exercises to get you started. The whole series takes about 20 minutes and you should do it several times a week.


1. Towel scrunch

Sit in a chair with bare feet. Place a towel on the floor, about two feet in front on the chair. Using the toes on your right foot, extend your digits across the towel, then contract them, scrunching your toes together and pulling the fabric close to your chair. Release the towel and extend your toes against, grabbing more fabric and you scrunch them together. Continue reaching and scrunching until you have created a balled-up towel in front of your chair. Do three times.

Six veterans who became famous sports icons

(Photo by Nino Liverani)

2. Arch raises

Sit in a chair, feet flat on the floor in front of you. Place one hand on either knee. Press down with your arms while simultaneously lifting your heels off the floor, resisting the pressure and rising onto your toes. Release. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

3. Pick-up game

Take the pieces to your favorite board game like Monopoly (chess and checkers work, too), and scatter them on the floor. Sit in a chair in the middle of the mess. Using only your toes, grab, lift, and carry each piece to a nearby bucket where they will be stored. Continue until floor is clean. Bring the kids in on this one — it’s a family favorite.

Six veterans who became famous sports icons

(Photo by Alexander Mils)

4. Foot flex

Tie an exercise band around the leg of a couch or bed. Sit on the floor, about two feet from the bed, and tie the other end of the band around your midfoot so that there is pressure on the band. Begin to flex and point your foot, keeping resistance on the band the whole time. Do 20 reps on one foot, then switch sides and repeat. Do three full sets.

5. Calf raises

The same exercise that tones your calves also builds strength and stability in your ankles. You can do these exercises with both feet at once, or one at a time. Stand facing a wall, about a foot away. Placing hands on the wall for balance as needed, rise up onto your toes and back down, making sure you roll up to the very top each time. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

Six veterans who became famous sports icons

(Photo by Clem Onojeghuo)

6. Blind balance

Stand in the middle of a room, feet shoulder-width apart. Shift your weight to the right side and lift your left foot off the floor 6 inches. Close your eyes. Attempt to count to 30 (30 seconds) while balancing with eyes closed. Repeat on opposite side.

7. Alphabet game

Stand next to a wall, feet shoulder-width apart. Shift weight to the right side and lift your left foot in front of you, knee bent. Trying to maintain your balance (use the wall for support if necessary), begin to trace the letters of the alphabet in the air with your left foot. Work from A to Z, then switch sides and repeat.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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See how huge this Army Ranger and Steelers lineman really is as he greets troops before a game

They used to call him “The Giant” – they being The Taliban. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva is still a giant, he’s just not fighting in Afghanistan anymore. His new fight is the ten-yard fight and the erstwhile U.S. Army second lieutenant’s new job is protecting the back of Steelers QB, Ben Roethlisberger. And judging by the team’s performance against the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 8, 2018, he must be pretty good at it.

Before the game kicked off, Fox Sports caught a glimpse of Villanueva jogging over to the sidelines to greet some active duty and reserve troops. That’s when you can really understand why the Taliban gave him that nickname.


Villanueva is a West Point graduate and played collegiate football on the offensive line for the Army Black Knights. When photographed with other NFL players — who are all large human beings — his size doesn’t seem all that remarkable. It’s when he goes to the sidelines to visit U.S. troops that you can see just how huge he is compared to the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States – who are no strangers to working out themselves.

And that’s probably why the Steelers have him watching Big Ben’s back.

Six veterans who became famous sports icons

One of these two is nicknamed “Big,” the other one is Alejandro Villanueva.

On the field, Roethlisberger looks like he lives up to the nickname “Big Ben.” The Steelers QB is 6’5″ and 240 pounds, cutting a unique outline on the playing field. In comparison, Villanueva is 6’9″ and 320 pounds.

Villanueva is still dedicated to the traditions held dear by most military veterans. During the 2017-2018 season, he created a row by leaving the locker room for the national anthem, leaving the rest of his team inside, a decision he later regretted. When sales of his jersey spiked in response to that action, it became the most popular jersey in the league. The former Army Ranger donated the proceeds of jersey sales to the USO and veteran-related nonprofits in AFC North cities, as he always has.

That consistency defines Alejandro Villanueva. He wasn’t just visiting troops before the Steelers-Panthers game because of the NFL’s “Salute to Service” month or any special event. He always goes to shake hands with visiting troops before every game, home or away.

Just for fun, watch Villanueva manhandle legendary Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who is 6’3″ and 265 pounds and is number 19 on the all-time QB sack records. Villanueva chops him down like he’s made of balsa wood.

Six veterans who became famous sports icons

Rangers lead the way.

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Why NFL referees no longer use pistols to call the end of a quarter

This post is sponsored by USAA, Official Salute to Service Partner of the NFL.

Anyone who’s ever been to a major sporting event can tell you the noise on the field level can be a deafening wall of sound. But communication on the field is important, and everyone involved needs to know how much time is left in the game. 

If you need any evidence of this, please refer to any close postseason game ever played. 

From the earliest days of American football until as late as 1994, referees on the field used a starter pistol to call the ends of quarters and of games.

When the leagues that became the NFL first started in 1920, there was no official standard for calling plays dead, ending quarters, or any other action taken by an officiating crew. Horns and whistles were used as often as anything else. These were soon standardized to whistles for the plays, pistols for the quarters, and eventually flags to call penalties. 

For much of the NFL’s early years, league officials keeping the official time would fire a starting pistol to signal the end of every quarter. The scoreboard clock was not the official game clock. But everyone could hear the crack of the shot and the refs would announce the end of the quarter or game. 

There’s no one reason why the league no longer uses the pistol, but suffice to say, it’s unnecessary.

An NFL referee signaling the start of a new quarter. Refs no longer use pistols.

In the NFL as we know it today, after the merger between the American Football League and the National Football League in 1970, the scoreboard became the official game clock – which was the league standard in the AFL (now the AFC). 

But though everyone could clearly see the time on the field, the refs still kept firing at the end of the quarter. The officiating crew also keeps the official time as a backup. 

As the late 1960s turned into the early 1970s, a wave of aircraft hijackings changed the rules of air travel. Referees were no longer allowed to travel with even a starter pistol, which could not fire live ammunition unless heavily modified. Refs had to borrow the home team’s starting gun.

If the home team didn’t have a starting gun, they didn’t use one, which could lead to confusion on the field. Standardization is as important in football as it is on the battlefield. 

Then, there were a series of incidents that wreaked havoc on the players, coaches and even the referees themselves. The sports blog FootballZebras recalled a number of accounts from the biographies of early NFL referees that describe a handful of these events in detail. 

One ref used the pistol to silence an angry Bill Belichick. Another accidentally fired the gun while it was still in his back pocket, causing a burn on his posterior. During one game, President Richard Nixon was in attendance and the use of the starting pistol caused extreme anxiety among the judges, who were afraid of Secret Service retaliation.  

So while there are many, many good reasons for refs not to fire a gunshot into the air at NFL games, the most important reason is that it’s just not necessary.

This post is sponsored by USAA, Official Salute to Service Partner of the NFL.

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Why 20 percent of Army generals couldn’t deploy in 2016

It’s no secret that that U.S. military has a troubling problem, one that prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to create the Pentagon’s “Deploy or Get Out” Policy. It turns out there are many American troops who just aren’t fit to fight — and that includes the military’s top brass.


Information obtained by USA Today found that one in five generals in the U.S. Army could not deploy in 2016 due to medical reasons. The generals were put off by the overdue medical and dental exams necessary to ensure their deployability.

Army spokesperson Brig. Gen. Omar Jones ensured USA Today that the proportion of generals who are able to deploy has since risen to around 85 percent. That number gets higher if the top brass takes care of their necessary blood work and dental examinations.

Six veterans who became famous sports icons

U.S. Army Generals go through an executive health program to improve their deployability.

(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McClung)

“The Army’s top priority is readiness and soldiers are expected to be world-wide deployable to ensure our Army is ready to fight today and in the future,” Jones told the paper. “The data from 2016 does not reflect recent improvements in medical readiness for the Army as a whole and for the general officer corps specifically.”

USA Today picked up the information using a Freedom of Information Act request. A panel created by then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was assigned to investigate the ethical misdeeds of high ranking officers in 2014. The panel was incredibly effective, finding more than 500 instances of failures in leadership. Part of that report included deployability information for general officers.

Six veterans who became famous sports icons

First Lt. Dowayne Anderson, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, cranks out fifteen push-ups during a “Battle PT” workout Sept. 4 at Forward Operating Base Ramrod. The unique physical training was designed for team building, cohesion, endurance and to develop Soldier skills.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Weaver)

As of 2016, only 83 percent of the Army’s soldiers were deployable, the lowest of the four branches. Marines led deployability at 90.2 percent, followed by the Navy at 90.1 and the Air Force at 88.8 percent. Since the bulk of the officers needed only simple medical and dental exams, the problem was easily addressed. Since then, Army general readiness is much higher.

As of October 2018, over 93 percent of the total Army ― soldiers of all ranks ― are deployable, while over 97 percent of Army general officers are deployable,” Col. Kathleen Turner, an Army spokeswoman, told Army Times.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How TrueCar helped get Navy Reservist Jesse Iwuji into the NASCAR race of his dreams

When Jesse Iwuji started racing cars, he never imagined his passion would blossom into a professional career. His passion for fast cars and racing started at the U.S. Naval Academy when he was playing football, running track, studying engineering/mathematics/sciences and learning how to lead sailors on surface ships.

Upon graduating from the Naval Academy in 2010 and becoming a commissioned officer in the Navy, Iwuji became a Surface Warfare Officer, but his love for driving never left. 

He bought a Corvette Z06 to drive daily and speed around tracks in Southern California, and between 2013 and 2015 spent time learning how to drive on track. In 2015 he was introduced to a NASCAR Late Model and a NASCAR K&N Pro Series team and then spent the last few years of his active duty service becoming a racecar driver. What Iwuji didn’t know was that his need for speed would run him up the NASCAR ladder and eventually earn him an opportunity to race in the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship race weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, with TrueCar as his primary sponsor.

Jesse Iwuji at the Nascar XFinity Race Nov 7th 2020 (Photo: Danny Hansen – HMedia)

After seven years of service, Iwuji joined the Naval Reserve to focus on driving. Now, he’s teaming up with TrueCar, the most efficient and transparent way to buy a new or used car from a trusted dealer, as the company’s military brand ambassador. 

“As someone who has served this country the last 10 years in the military, I’m excited to work with a brand like TrueCar that understands the unique needs and lifestyle demands of the military community,” Iwuji says. “I am proud to raise awareness of this fantastic program that can save active duty service members, veterans and their families a lot of time, stress, and money.”

Everyone who has served in the military knows that buying a car is one of the most common trappings among young troops and their families. While that new Mustang might be tempting, it’s important to make sure you don’t find yourself suckered into a bad deal. Thankfully, TrueCar recently launched TrueCar Military, a dedicated vehicle purchase program that provides exclusive military incentives and benefits, on top of TrueCar’s existing benefits, to those who have served our country’s armed forces and their families. As part of this program, veterans, active duty service members and their families can enjoy special military incentives, upfront pricing, a dedicated customer hotline and much more. 

TrueCar is no stranger to the military community — they’ve been supporting the community for years and through the DrivenToDrive program, where they provide brand new vehicles to deserving veterans. Now, they’ve taken their support a step further by sponsoring Jesse Iwuji, empowering him to live out his dream on the racetrack.

Inspired by the indomitable spirit of its program ambassador, SFC (Ret.) Cory Rembsburg, the DrivenToDrive program was launched by TrueCar in partnership with AutoNation and Disabled American Veterans (DAV). The program is back again this year — and with Jesse Iwuji involved, it’s better than ever. To celebrate Veterans Day on November 11, TrueCar awarded yet another vehicle to another amazing veteran. To see the surprise moment and Jesse present the vehicle to the 2020 DriventoDrive Recipient, check out the video or visit www.truecar.com/driventodrive/

To see Jesse in action and for more information about TrueCar Military benefits tailored to military members and their families, check out the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S66Mm7gNT78
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Master fitness trainers help soldiers prepare for combat

Master Fitness Training instructors work tirelessly to coach soldiers from across the Army in developing new ways to prepare them for combat, while in the process, helping increase readiness and lowering profiles up to 40%, says the fitness school NCOIC.

Wanting to better understand the effectiveness of the fitness program, Master Sgt. Joseph Komes, U.S. Army Physical Fitness School noncommissioned officer in charge, used a roster based on thousands of soldiers, all previously certified at the school, and sent a questionnaire to understand the school’s effectiveness.

Shortly after, the responses started pouring in.


“What I started seeing was that trainers were increasing their unit readiness,” he said. “The way I measured unit readiness was only by PT scores and profile rates, because, I’m just one guy in an office trying to figure out if what we’re doing is working.”

Six veterans who became famous sports icons

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod)

Komes also determined individual units, armed with certified fitness trainers, decreased their profile rates by close to 40%. However, Komes added, “I don’t know if those individuals were on a two-week profile and they just ended up falling off during the training program or what.”

That said, the responses were useful and answered his question. In addition, it gave fitness instructors at the school a better understanding of how worthwhile their program is, and with the Army Combat Fitness Test in its second phase of implementation, the timing couldn’t be better, he said.

Scheduled to be the test of record in October 2020, the ACFT is the Army’s largest physical fitness overhaul in nearly four decades. Like physical readiness training, something the instructors are experts in, the ACFT is part of a larger “reset” to build a more combat-ready force.

To meet the demands of the six-event ACFT, instructors from the school have already certified thousands of soldiers from around the Army to develop physical programs to bring back to their units. In addition, the selected soldiers are trained on a variety of skills vital to the ACFT, including how to set up the testing field, as well as supervising and grading the test.

According to Komes, in the past, physical training programs “lost touch” with combat readiness. Regarding PT, soldiers were forced to “run four days out of the week and ruck on the fifth,” which led to injuries and an overall decrease in a soldier’s lethality.

Six veterans who became famous sports icons

Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers conduct a sunrise run during annual training at Fort Stewart, Ga., Jan. 11, 2017.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. William Carraway)

He added, “That’s just the way PT was always done, and it’s our job is to help soldiers sit down and strategically assess their mission, and prevent injuries from happening. [They should think] Okay, I have a training event nine weeks from now — where we’re going to enter a building and clear room — how do we physically, and safely prepare for this?”

That’s where the master fitness trainer comes in, he said.

“These days, we have better knowledge to increase overall unit performance during a deployment,” he said. “[Master Fitness Training instructors] are doing their best to implement that [knowledge] and shape the future for the Army.”

When fitness instructors certify trainers, they’re thinking of each individual soldier and the unique needs required to be successful — even at that basic level, he said.

“We’re looking at them as individuals and not just as just a big mass,” Komes said. “I think with the ACFT around the corner, it seems like that’s the mindset that’s important, because every person has their own requirements.”

Komes added, it’s vital for trainers to know their soldiers and know what they need to be successful on the ACFT.

“Our trainers understand that we have to physically prepare individuals to complete the Army’s mission,” he added. “It’s very humbling for us to give soldiers, from all three components of the Army, the tools to succeed because the folks who leave here go back to those individual soldiers.”

“Everyone is different,” he said. “Some soldiers could be attached to National Guard units, and implementing a PT program once a month is challenging, or they could be military police and work odd shifts.”

Being able to “crack the code and see the challenges from different perspectives” is a daily task the trainers and instructors grapple with, he said, adding, that “having a fitness trainer all the way down to the platoon level” would be ideal. However, the trainers who leave the fitness school only reach the company level, for active duty.

Six veterans who became famous sports icons

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test

(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

“We already know each individual is different, but each individual platoon is different, too,” he said. “Each platoon is training for a different goal.”

That’s also where certified master fitness trainers come in, he added. “Certified trainers are able to go to their units with a wealth of knowledge, and look at essential task list and identify the most daunting task and develop a physical fitness program based on those tasks to increase the overall performance.”

When Komes first arrived at the fitness school in 2012, the ACFT wasn’t a thought on anyone’s mind. Today, it seems to be everyone’s first thought, he said.

This change leaves the instructors with a large responsibility on their backs — to ensure the force is ready. But, it’s a responsibility they carry with pride, he said.

“When we conduct MFT training, we ensure each certified trainer has a plan for their unit,” he said, adding thousands of certified trainers are among the force already.

“They’re out there, they’re already in units, and hopefully commanders understand what they bring to the fight,” Komes said.

For soldiers uneasy with the ACFT, Komes recommends they reach out to their local master fitness trainer, or identify who it is through their chain of command.

The Master Fitness Training Course is broken into two phases — a self-paced, 60-hour online phase and a two-week, 76-hour in-residence phase. The curriculum covers everything from exercise science, PT program design, leadership, physical fitness assessment and unit physical readiness programs, aligned with current Army doctrine and regulations.

After graduating from the course, soldiers are equipped to advise units on physical readiness issues and monitor unit and individual physical readiness programs.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

2020 NFL draft: When and how to watch, order, top picks – here’s everything you need to know

We know COVID-19 has ruined a lot of your plans, but sports fans everywhere are feeling it a little extra right now with tonight being the NFL Draft. While you might be able to take the draft out of Vegas (and into the NFL Commissioner’s basement…), can you ever fully take the excitement out of the draft?

We say no, no you can’t.

Here’s everything you need to know about the 2020 NFL Draft: How and when to watch it, the draft order, top picks, a little history and of course, your military tie in for this year’s festivities.


Six veterans who became famous sports icons

ProFootball Hall of Fame

The history

The NFL was founded in Canton, OH in 1920. For those first magical years, players could sign with any team that wanted them. As you can imagine, this led to quite a disparity of level of play — the best players kept going to the best teams, leaving the other teams scrounging for talent.

According to the ProFootball Hall of Fame:

The league owners adopted a plan for a college player draft on May 19, 1935. Proposed by the Eagles and owner and future NFL commissioner Bert Bell, the plan called for teams to select players in inverse order of their finish the previous season. The first draft had nine rounds and was increased to 10 in 1937. It was expanded to 20 rounds in 1939. Adding a twist to the procedure in 1938 and 1939, only the five teams that finished lowest in the previous season were permitted to make selections in the second and fourth rounds.

1940s: The NFL faced competition in drafting for the first time when the All-America Football Conference came onto the pro football scene in the latter part of the decade. The NFL also added a bonus selection – the first pick overall – in 1947.

1950s: The idea of the bonus pick, which began in 1947, ran full cycle and was abandoned after the 1958 draft. By that time, each team in the league had been awarded the first overall pick in the annual draft, and teams resumed picking in reverse order of league standing.

1960s: The draft became the battleground for a war between the National Football League and American Football League. The rival leagues held separate drafts through 1966 before holding joint drafts from 1967-1969. When the leagues merged at the end of the decade, the draft rivalry was over, and a new rivalry, the Super Bowl, had begun.

1970s: The NFL, drafting as one unified league, eventually reduced the number of rounds to 12. The fierce competition for top talent saw the number one overall pick being secured through trades four times during the decade.

1980s: The NFL again fended off competition from a potential rival as the United States Football League attempted to tap into the talent pool in the mid-1980s. Perhaps the highlight of the decade, draft wise, came in 1983 when a rare group of college quarterbacks dominated the first round of that year’s draft.

1990s: Many of the decade’s elite teams, like so many franchises before them, have built through the draft. There may be no greater example than the Dallas Cowboys, who used multiple picks to go from a 1-15 team in 1989 to winning three Super Bowls in the 1990s.

2000s: In back-to-back drafts in the 2000s, an NFL team made trades in order to select three players in the first round. In 2000, the Jets drafted in the number 12th, 13th, and 27th spots of the first round. One year later, the St. Louis Rams had the 12th, 20th, and 29th overall picks of round number one.

2010s: The St. Louis Rams selected quarterback Sam Bradford with their first overall pick. This set the trend as other teams used their first overall pick to also select quarterbacks as the face of their franchise including Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston and Jared Goff.
Six veterans who became famous sports icons

2020 format

Fast forward to 2020 and it’s a new decade with a whole new sort of feel. Tonight’s draft will be done completely virtually. Teams will draft online and picks will be announced by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at his home. For anyone who’s ever done a fantasy football draft online, it’s going to look a lot like that. Only a few small differences: we doubt anyone will miss their pick because they’re getting kids a snack and also, there will be 58 camera crews at the presumed top 58 picks’ homes to catch their reactions.

The format remains the same: time allotted to select picks will be: 10 minutes in Round 1, seven minutes in Rounds 2 and 3, and five minutes in Rounds 4 through 7.

When to watch

The draft starts tonight, April 23 at 8:00 pm eastern with Round 1. Rounds 2 and 3 are tomorrow, Friday, April 24 starting at 7:00 pm eastern. Rounds 4 through 7 will be held on Saturday, April 25 starting at 12:00 pm eastern.

How to watch/listen

Here’s how you can watch the 2020 NFL Draft on TV and on live stream:

Television

ESPN and NFL Network will simulcast all rounds. ABC will have its own prime-time telecast for Rounds 1-3 tonight and tomorrow, but will simulcast with ESPN and NFL Network on Saturday for the final rounds on Saturday. According to CBS, the draft telecasts will originate from ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut, studios and a majority of the analysts and reporters will contribute from at-home studios.

Thursday, April 23 (8-11:30 p.m. ET)

Round 1: ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio

Friday, April 24 (7-11:30 p.m. ET)


Rounds 2-3: ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio

Saturday, April 25 (12-7 p.m. ET)

Rounds 4-7: ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio

Live stream

FuboTV (try for free)

Live coverage: CBS Sports HQ

WatchESPN app or the NFL Mobile app will also provide livestream. You can also use streaming services such as Sling TV or YouTube TV.

Radio

SiriusXM, Westwood One, and ESPN Radio will have draft coverage.

Draft order

Note: Compensatory picks are marked with an asterisk (*)

Round 1

1. Cincinnati
2. Washington
3. Detroit
4. NY Giants
5. Miami
6. LA Chargers
7. Carolina
8. Arizona
9. Jacksonville
10. Cleveland
11. NY Jets
12. Las Vegas
13. San Francisco f/IND
14. Tampa Bay
15. Denver
16. Atlanta
17. Dallas
18. Miami f/PIT
19. Las Vegas f/CHI
20. Jacksonville f/LAR
21. Philadelphia
22. Minnesota f/BUF
23. New England
24. New Orleans
25. Minnesota
26. Miami f/HOU
27. Seattle
28. Baltimore
29. Tennessee
30. Green Bay
31. San Francisco
32. Kansas City

Round 2

33. Cincinnati
34. Indianapolis f/WAS
35. Detroit
36. NY Giants
37. LA Chargers
38. Carolina
39. Miami
40. Houston f/ARI
41. Cleveland
42. Jacksonville
43. Chicago f/LV
44. Indianapolis
45. Tampa Bay
46. Denver
47. Atlanta
48. NY Jets
49. Pittsburgh
50. Chicago
51. Dallas
52. LA Rams
53. Philadelphia
54. Buffalo
55. Baltimore f/NE via ATL
56. Miami f/NO
57. LA Rams f/HOU
58. Minnesota
59. Seattle
60. Baltimore
61. Tennessee
62. Green Bay
63. Kansas City f/SF
64. Seattle f/KC

Round 3

65. Cincinnati
66. Washington
67. Detroit
68. NY Jets f/NYG
69. Carolina
70. Miami
71. LA Chargers
72. Arizona
73. Jacksonville
74. Cleveland
75. Indianapolis
76. Tampa Bay
77. Denver
78. Atlanta
79. NY Jets
80. Las Vegas
81. Las Vegas f/CHI
82. Dallas
83. Denver f/PIT
84. LA Rams
85. Detroit f/PHI
86. Buffalo
87. New England
88. New Orleans
89. Minnesota
90. Houston
91. Las Vegas f/SEA via HOU
92. Baltimore
93. Tennessee
94. Green Bay
95. Denver f/SF
96. Kansas City
97. Cleveland f/HOU*
98. New England*
99. NY Giants*
100. New England*
101. Seattle*
102. Pittsburgh*
103. Philadelphia*
104. LA Rams*
105. Minnesota*
106. Baltimore*

Round 4

107. Cincinnati
108. Washington
109. Detroit
110. NY Giants
111. Houston f/MIA
112. LA Chargers
113. Carolina
114. Arizona
115. Cleveland
116. Jacksonville
117. Tampa Bay
118. Denver
119. Atlanta
120. NY Jets
121. Las Vegas
122. Indianapolis
123. Dallas
124. Pittsburgh
125. New England f/CHI
126. LA Rams
127. Philadelphia
128. Buffalo
129. Baltimore f/NE
130. New Orleans
131. Arizona f/HOU
132. Minnesota
133. Seattle
134. Baltimore
135. Pittsburgh f/TEN via MIA
136. Green Bay
137. Jacksonville f/SF via DEN
138. Kansas City
139. New England f/TB*
140. Jacksonville f/CHI*
141. Miami*
142. Washington*
143. Atlanta f/BAL*
144. Seattle*
145. Philadelphia*
146. Philadelphia*

Round 5

147. Cincinnati
148. Carolina f/WAS
149. Detroit
150. NY Giants
151. LA Chargers
152. Carolina
153. Miami
154. Miami f/JAC via PIT
155. Minnesota f/CLE via BUF
156. San Francisco f/DEN
157. Jacksonville f/ATL via BAL
158. NY Jets
159. Las Vegas
160. Indianapolis
161. Tampa Bay
162. Washington f/PIT via SEA
163. Chicago
164. Dallas
165. Jacksonville f/LAR
166. Detroit f/PHI
167. Buffalo
168. Philadelphia f/NE
169. New Orleans
170. Baltimore f/MIN
171. Houston
172. New England f/SEA via DET
173. Miami f/BAL via LAR
174. Tennessee
175. Green Bay
176. San Francisco
177. Kansas City
178. Denver*
179. Dallas*

Round 6

180. Cincinnati
181. Denver f/WAS
182. Detroit
183. NY Giants
184. Carolina
185. Miami
186. LA Chargers
187. Cleveland f/ARI
188. Buffalo f/CLE
189. Jacksonville
190. Philadelphia f/ATL
191. NY Jets
192. Green Bay f/LV
193. Indianapolis
194. Tampa Bay
195. New England f/DEN
196. Chicago
197. Indianapolis f/DAL via MIA
198. Pittsburgh
199. LA Rams
200. Chicago f/PHI
201. Minnesota f/BUF
202. Arizona f/NE
203. New Orleans
204. New England f/HOU
205. Minnesota
206. Jacksonville f/SEA
207. Buffalo f/BAL via NE
208. Green Bay f/TEN
209. Green Bay
210. San Francisco
211. NY Jets f/KC
212. New England*
213. New England*
214. Seattle*

Round 7

215. Cincinnati
216. Washington
217. San Francisco f/DET
218. NY Giants
219. Minnesota f/MIA
220. LA Chargers
221. Carolina
222. Arizona
223. Jacksonville
224. Tennessee f/CLE
225. Baltimore f/NYJ
226. Chicago f/LV
227. Miami f/IND
228. Atlanta f/TB via PHI
229. Washington f/DEN
230. New England f/ATL
231. Dallas
232. Pittsburgh
233. Chicago
234. LA Rams
235. Detroit f/PHI via NE
236. Green Bay f/BUF via CLE
237. Tennessee f/NE via DEN
238. NY Giants f/NO
239. Buffalo f/MIN
240. Houston
241. Tampa Bay f/SEA via NE
242. Green Bay f/BAL
243. Tennessee
244. Cleveland f/GB
245. San Francisco
246. Miami f/KC
247. NY Giants*
248. Houston*
249. Minnesota*
250. Houston*
251. Miami*
252. Denver*
253. Minnesota*
254. Denver*
255. NY Giants

Six veterans who became famous sports icons

Who to watch

Our fave guy? None other than military brat and Auburn superstar Derrick Brown.

Have some fun and win Super Bowl tickets!

As the first-ever Official Casino Sponsor of the National Football League, Caesars Entertainment is proud to introduce the all-new NFL Draft Pick’em Online Game. From now through the start of the NFL Draft—Thursday, April 23— contestants will compete to win Super Bowl LV tickets, trips to Las Vegas to see a Raiders game and more by competing against other participants to correctly predict first round picks.

“With the NFL Draft no longer taking place in Las Vegas due to COVID-19, we still wanted to offer everyone a fun and interactive way to be a part of the action while they’re at home,” said Caesars Entertainment Chief Marketing Officer, Chris Holdren. “The all-new NFL Draft Pick’em online game is the perfect blend of entertainment to enhance the experience of seeing the next generation of NFL stars selected by their teams.”

How to play? Visit Caesars.com/DraftPickEm and attempt to pick the perfect first round Draft from a pool of 100 prospects for a chance to win:

1st Place – Two tickets to Super Bowl LV, plus ,500 for travel accommodations

2nd – 4th Places – Two tickets to a 2020 Las Vegas Raiders home game and a two-night hotel stay

5th – 9th Places – 0 NFLShop.com Gift Card

Players can also test their skills as a running back, quarterback and wide receiver in arcade games for even more chances to win prizes.

COVID-19 might have us all down, but tonight we’re just a bunch of socially distant people, united through football.


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