The National Football League USO Coaches Tour has commenced as this year four current and former coaches are participating.
They include New York Jets Special Teams Coach and Army veteran Ben Kotwica, Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier, former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach and current CBS analyst Bill Cowher and former Cleveland Browns and New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini.
With Kotwica being an army veteran it’s probably safe to say that the NFL didn’t have to ask twice to get him to go.
“I’m just really grateful that I was asked to be part of their wonderful experience in giving back to the soldiers,” Kotwica said. “I know how special it is, as a former officer and soldier myself, when people from the NFL and the USO come over to support the troops. I consider myself lucky to have this opportunity.”
In 2004, Kotwica was sent to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II, serving as a combat attack helicopter commander and flying more than 1,000 combat hours. He also spent time in Bosnia and Korea. During his Army career, Kotwica earned the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Bronze Star.
As for Cowher this is his second time as in 2009 he participated in the tour, but that doesn’t mean this trip means any less for him.
“This is my second trip to visit the troops and I am really excited to spend time with the men and women who protect our freedom each and every day,” said Cowher. “Anything I can do to brighten their day and show my appreciation is a huge honor for me.”
As for Frazier this is his first trip on the tour and understands the importance of the sacrifices that our brave men and women make.
“Giving back to veterans and active service members is the least we can do as Americans,” said Frazier. “We are able to live free and raise our families safely because of the sacrifices these brave men and women make every day.”
As a NFL head coach, Mangini often invited military groups to attend minicamp and training camp practices. He sent a group of Jets to Fort Bragg in North Carolina to spend time with soldiers and develop leadership skills. The players were also able to spend time with Wounded Warriors and tour their performance enhancement center, which focuses on mental training.
The Jets then hosted a group from Fort Bragg at the team facility in New York where soldiers were treated like members of the squad, attending meetings, OTA practices, and even helping with drills. Some soldiers addressed the team and participated in a team-building event as part of the experience.
In Cleveland, Mangini hosted a similar event when a contingent of Green Berets from Fort Bragg attended the Browns OTA’s.