Three former NFL players and a former NFL executive continue an NFL-USO tradition initiated more than 45 years ago as they prepare to take part in a weeklong USO tour to visit U.S. troops at military bases throughout the Middle East.
ESPN NFL analyst and former President and Vice Chairman of the Indianapolis Colts BILL POLIAN, former line backers CHRIS DRAFT and DONNIE EDWARDS, and former running back ERIC METCALF will travel to the Middle East to spend time with service members. This will mark the fifth USO tour for Edwards, who has traveled to several countries since 2007 and the first for Draft, Metcalf, and Polian.
The trip will mark the second NFL-USO tour of the year. In March, 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 end J.J. WATT traveled to the Middle East to spend time with service members. The group traveled to remote locations throughout the region, dining with soldiers, greeting military personnel and signing autographs.
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 COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL, 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, current and former NFL coaches BILL COWHER, LESLIE FRAZIER, BEN KOTWICA, AND ERIC MANGINI spent July 4th in Afghanistan 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:
In 1998, Draft graduated from Stanford University where he earned a degree in economics while becoming a four-year letter winner in football and a two-year member of the Cardinal baseball team. After college, he went on to a 12-year career in the NFL, playing linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, St Louis Rams, and Washington Redskins. Currently, Draft serves as the as the president and founder of the Chris Draft Family Foundation (CDFF), which focuses on several primary initiatives with overarching themes that stress the importance of education, healthy lifestyles, character development, personal responsibility, self-discipline, and physical fitness.
”My father was in the Marine Corps, my brother was in the Navy and my grandfather was career Army, so military values have shaped my life. It is an honor and a privilege to able to visit our troops abroad and thank them for their commitment and sacrifices that benefit all Americans.”
A UCLA graduate, Edwards was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth round of the 1996 NFL Draft. He went on to a 14-year career in the NFL as a linebacker. He also played for the San Diego Chargers and made it to the Pro Bowl in 2002.
“If it weren’t for our Armed Forces, I wouldn’t know what it was like to have the freedom to vote, much less play football professionally. We, as Americans, owe them our respect and our time. And one of the many ways I honor them is by working with the USO and going out on tours to convey my appreciation.”
A University of Texas at Austin alumni, Metcalf was drafted by the Cleveland Browns as the 13th overall pick in the first round of the 1989 NFL Draft. Metcalf played for 13 years in the NFL as a kick-return specialist, running back and wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, San Diego Chargers, and Washington Redskins. Metcalf ranks second on the NFL’s all-time list for punt-return touchdowns (10) and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection. Currently, Metcalf is an assistant coach for the University of Washington men’s track & field team.
“People watch the game of football and believe it must be tough to get out there and put your body on the line every play. I chose to be a part of this tour because our troops are the real men and women putting their lives on the line for our entire country. These brave Americans allow us to sleep comfortably every night and being a part of this tour is the only way that I can begin to repay them. I have been on many football teams throughout my life but I am about to experience a few days with the ultimate team and at the same time celebrate the 4th of July with the men and women who keep us free. It gets no better than this!”
Polian helped build multiple successful franchises throughout his 24 years at the NFL, serving most recently as President and Vice Chairman of the Indianapolis Colts. He is the first six-time recipient of the NFL Executive of the Year award from The Sporting News, an honor bestowed on him by his peers.
Polian is currently a commentator and NFL analyst for ESPN. Polian focuses on the NFL Draft, free agency and the multitude of other business-related aspects of pro football, including player transactions, trades, salary cap issues and league rules.
“I am honored to be part of this great trip. I can’t imagine a better place to be on July 4th than with our troops overseas.”