Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona won the NFL’s Salute to Service award Wednesday, the league announced.
The award recognizes the exceptional efforts by members of the NFL family to honor and support the military community. Cardona is a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve and will be recognized at NFL Honors on Thursday night, a primetime awards show aired from Las Vegas.
“Joe Cardona represents the epitome of the NFL’s Salute to Service Award,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “His commitment to honoring, empowering, and connecting with the military community as an active service member, while also dedicated to his Patriots teammates, truly sets him apart. He is the true embodiment of what it means to be an American hero.”
Cardona is the 13th winner of the award and a nine-year NFL starter. He entered the league as a fifth-round pick out of Navy in 2015. As a rookie, he pulled double-duty working as the Patriots’ long snapper and as an Ensign in the Navy. Two years later, he was promoted to lieutenant junior grade.
Cardona currently serves as the department head of Maritime Security Squadron 8, headquartered in Newport, Rhode Island. He oversees the logistical needs of 500 sailors across the eastern seaboard and has previously supported efforts in Africa and the Korean peninsula.
“It is a tremendous honor to receive the NFL Salute to Service Award. I am thankful to the New England Patriots organization for accommodating my military service, and I hope to be a model for future players who wish to serve,” Cardona said in the statement. “I appreciate the partnership between the NFL and our military and the role I have been able to play in it. On the field, I hope to represent the fighting spirit of our veterans, as well as my brothers and sisters in arms whom I serve alongside today.”
Cardona is highly involved in the community and supports military families through organizations like the Travis Manion Foundation, dedicated to empowering veterans and families of fallen heroes. He also contributes at events, such as the Brothers of Life, which brings together Americans and Israeli wounded soldiers.
In past years, Cardona has organized efforts to donate Patriots game tickets to military members and their families. Cardona has also led free football clinics and toy drives for military children, and presided over more than a dozen re-enlistment and retirement ceremonies at Gillette Stadium.
Every year, all 32 NFL teams nominate one person for the Salute to Service award before finalists are selected through a fan vote, award sponsor USAA and internal NFL committee. USAA is a leading insurance provider for U.S. military members, veterans and their families. The company will donate $25,000 in Cardona’s honor to the official aid societies representing each of the military branches.
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