San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle has been announced as one of three finalists for the NFL's 12th annual Salute to Service Award.
Since entering the league, Kittle has exemplified what it means to honor, empower and connect with military members. Kittle's appreciation for the military community is rooted in family with his Uncle Pat, grandfather Carl and other loved ones who have served.
Through the league's My Cause My Cleats initiative, Kittle has taken the opportunity to honor the sacrifices of service members and the efforts of military nonprofits by recognizing the Pat Tillman Foundation in 2018, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) from 2019 to 2021 and Merging Vets & Players (MVP) in 2022.
Since building a connection with TAPS at the 2018 Pro Bowl, Kittle has sustained long term relationships with families who have lost a loved one to service. After gifting the family of fallen Army Sergeant Martin LaMar tickets to Super Bowl LIV, Kittle has spent multiple seasons reconnecting with the LaMars by hosting them at Training Camp practices.
LaMar's purple heart medal, gifted to Kittle by LaMar's family in 2020, still hangs in Kittle's locker as a reminder of the sacrifices made by our nation's heroes.
In 2020, Kittle and his family founded the Hidden Pearls Podcast (HPP) to connect with military veterans to unite the world through storytelling. Kittle donated over $25,000 to charities selected by hosted veterans on the podcast last season. In the Summer of 2022, HPP joined "Diving With Heroes" in Cozumel, Mexico to reflect on the benefits of scuba diving by veterans, especially those with physical disabilities.
During the 2021 season, Kittle purchased over 150 tickets to donate to the National Guard. This year, he hosted service members at every 49ers home and away game, extending his displays of appreciation nationwide.
The Salute to Service Award recognizes NFL players, coaches, staff and alumni with demonstrable commitment to honoring and supporting military and veteran communities, as nominated by NFL clubs.
The award recipient will be recognized at NFL Honors, airing live during the week of Super Bowl LVII on Thursday, Feb. 9 at 6:00pm PT on NBC, NFL Network and Peacock from Symphony Hall in Phoenix, Arizona. USAA will donate $25,000 in the winner's name to official aid societies representing all U.S. military branches. The NFL will match USAA's contribution by donating another $25,000 to the award recipient's military or veteran charity of choice.
The 49ers Pro Bowlers spent time with Wounded Warrior Project veterans and TAPS families while in Orlando, Fla. for the 2019 Pro Bowl.