The NFL has announced San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle as a 2022 nominee for the 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. He honors the sacrifices of service members and the efforts of military nonprofits through the My Cause My Cleats initiative, recognizing the Pat Tillman Foundation (PTF) in 2018, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) from 2019 to 2021 and Merging Vets & Players (MVP) in 2022. In the 2021 season, Kittle purchased over 150 tickets to donate to the National Guard. This year, he will host service members at every 49ers home and away game, extending his displays of appreciation nationwide.
In 2020, Kittle and his family founded the Hidden Pearls Podcast (HPP) to connect with military veterans to unite the world through storytelling. Recently, HPP joined "Diving With Heroes" in Cozumel to reflect on the benefits of scuba diving by veterans, especially those with physical disabilities. Kittle donated over $25,000 to charities selected by hosted veterans on the podcast last season.
Kittle empowers service members and their loved ones by using his passion for football and teamwork to encourage others to overcome adversity. Since building a relationship 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.
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.
In a new campaign this year, the Faithful can vote for Kittle to earn the Salute to Service Award, which will help determine the award's three finalists. To submit your vote, visit NFL.com/SaluteFanVote until November 30. One vote per day, per fan is permitted. The finalists will be announced in January.
The award's panel members include Denver Broncos tight end and 2021 award recipient Andrew Beck, Air Force Academy graduate and three-time Super Bowl champion Chad Hennings, Marine Corps veteran and former NFL head coach Jim Mora Sr., U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and NFL Vice President of Security and Vice Admiral (Ret.) Lenny Bandy and USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs John Bird. Together, they will select a finalist who will be recognized at the NFL Honors during the week of Super Bowl LVII.
As the presenting sponsor of the Salute to Service Award, USAA will contribute $25,000 in the recipient's name to official aid societies representing all U.S. military branches. The NFL will match USAA's contribution by donating an additional $25,000 to the finalist'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.