Denver Broncos cornerback CHAMP BAILEY, Cleveland Browns linebacker D’QWELL JACKSON, Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard DAVIN JOSEPH, Broncos linebacker VON MILLER, Carolina Panthers wide receiver STEVE SMITH and Houston Texans defensive endJ.J. WATT will travel to the Middle East to spend time with service members. This tour marks the first NFL-USO tour abroad for all the players.
The NFL and USO have organized overseas morale-building visits for more than 45 years. In 1966, the NFL teamed with the USO and became the first sports organization to send a group of players to Vietnam and other parts of Asia to demonstrate the league’s support for America’s troops. Since then, NFL icons including TERRY BRADSHAW, LARRY CSONKA, FRANCO HARRIS, HOWIE LONG, DON MEREDITH, LYNN SWANN and JOHNNY UNITAS have visited troops on NFL-USO tours in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Japan, Korea, Kuwait and Somalia.
Last year, the NFL and USO deployed players JASON BAKER, DHANI JONES, ALEX MACK, TAKEO SPIKES,and ERIC WINSTON overseas to boost the morale of service men and women. During the tour, the group visited more than five military bases in multiple countries throughout Southwest Asia.
In addition, current and former NFL coaches BILL COWHER,LESLIE FRAZIER,BEN KOTWICA,AND ERIC MANGINI spent July 4thin Afghanistan last year as part of the fourth annual NFL-USO Coaches tour to show their appreciation to service members.
Players participating in this year’s NFL-USO Tour:
- CHAMP BAILEY, Denver Broncos:
A team captain and a two-time nominee for the Broncos’ Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award (2008-09), Bailey is an active leader on the field and in the community. He adopted the Denver Rescue Mission’s Denver Broncos Youth Center at The Crossing and has spent the last several years making monthly visits to the center to participate in activities and meet and inspire young people living at The Crossing. He also developed “Champ’s Volunteers,” a youth volunteer recruitment program benefitting the Denver Rescue Mission. An ardent supporter of the U.S. military, Bailey participated in an F-16 ride along with the Air Force Thunderbirds last offseason.
Bailey said, “This is a great opportunity to support the service men and women of our armed forces and bring attention to their efforts overseas.”
- D’QWELL JACKSON, Cleveland Browns:
Jackson has been active in the community locally, nationally and globally throughout his pro career. He has been on mission trips to Sierra Leone in Africa and lent his support to Team Gleason, led by former New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason, to raise awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Locally, he founded the “Real Hope, Real Dreams” season ticket program which provides tickets, apparel and food at Browns games for the East Cleveland Neighborhood organization. He also led his teammates in sponsoring the club’s Holiday Extravaganza event, which surprised 100 kids from the City of Cleveland Recreation Centers with holiday gifts.
"It's an honor to be part of this USO tour," said Jackson. "I think it's a great experience and an opportunity to speak first-hand and show our gratitude to our military. What they do for our country is something special, and words can't express the appreciation that we have for the job that they do."
- DAVIN JOSEPH, Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Joseph, the Buccaneers’ Players Association representative and reigning two-time Man of the Year, has become almost as well-known for enormous heart as for his long dreadlocks. Serving as a United Way spokesperson and leading the NFL’s United Way volunteer recruitment with “TEAM DAVIN,” his community efforts and foundation initiatives have made him as popular in local high schools and service agencies as he is at Raymond James Stadium. The Davin Joseph Events for Cause Foundation, as well as numerous Buccaneers initiatives including “Turkey Time with the O-Line” and “Davin’s Dream Team,” have helped Joseph establish lasting and impactful relationships in Tampa Bay and South Florida communities.
“To get the opportunity to represent the NFL, the Buccaneers, and to really show how much appreciation we have for the troops that serve our country is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Joseph. “I have the utmost respect for our servicemen and women and the things they do, the sacrifices they make for our country. To go out there, pay our respects to them, and see how we can brighten up their day is what it’s really all about.”
- VON MILLER, Denver Broncos:
His passion translates effectively to his off-the-field contributions and his work in the community. Known for sporting a large collection of thick-framed glasses, he started a foundation called Von’s Vision, which helps pay for eye exams, glasses, contacts and Lasik eye surgery for underprivileged youth.
Miller said, “I’m excited to represent the Broncos and the NFL on this tour and show my appreciation for the military personnel who serve our country.”
- STEVE SMITH, Carolina Panthers:
Throughout his twelve seasons in the NFL, Steve has been community-minded making appearances throughout the Carolinas with a focus on children and the military. Kids are always close to his heart, before each game he visits with a Keep Pounding kid from the Levine Children's Hospital. He always strived to do more and is now the Chairperson of the Samaritan's Feet NFL "Barefoot Ambassadors" program. The NFL Barefoot Ambassadors is a platform to help raise money, shoes and provide opportunities for others, including NFL players to serve impoverished children at Samaritan's Feet shoe distributions domestically and abroad.
“I am honored to have this rare opportunity through the NFL and USO to spend time with the men and women serving in our armed forces,” said Smith. “Being able to visit with troops during their deployment, having the chance to shake their hands, look them in the eye and personally thank them for what they do is a privilege.”
- J.J. WATT, Houston Texans:
Watt was named Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year and also earned First-Team All Pro and Pro Bowl recognition for the first time. He has started every game for the Texans after being drafted with the 11th overall pick two years ago. He founded and serves on the board of directors of the Justin J. Watt Foundation, which provides support to after-school athletic programs in Wisconsin and Texas.