Hurst Named Finalist for the NFL’s Salute to Service Award
Former University of South Carolina and current Cincinnati Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst is one of three finalists selected for the 12th annual Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle and Washington Commanders Head Coach Ron Rivera are the other two finalists for the prestigious award.
Hayden Hurst has been a growing national voice in the mental health treatment, awareness and advocacy community since sharing his story of battling depression and anxiety in 2020. That year, he and his family produced a video with a message to Marines in support of Suicide Prevention Month, which helped introduce Hurst to the mental, emotional and psychological challenges faced by current and former military members. Since then, he has remained dedicated to veteran outreach, working with several organizations around the country through the Hayden Hurst Family Foundation. Hurst pledged $20,000 to Top Dogg K9 Foundation, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that trains and pairs service dogs with disabled veterans struggling with mental health challenges post-deployment. At the third annual Hayden Hurst Family Foundation Golf Tournament held in February, Hurst and his mother, Cathy, worked with Acadia Healthcare to fly in a foursome of military patients that were honored before participating in the event. Proceeds from the tournament benefited the Youth Crisis Center, an organization that helps children with depression and anxiety in Hurst’s hometown of Jacksonville, FL. In August, Hurst partnered with the Cincinnati-based Armed Forces Tickets Association to provide four tickets for an active-duty service member and their family to watch the Bengals’ preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams at Paycor Stadium. The Hayden Hurst Family Foundation is actively collaborating with Acadia Healthcare to host military-appreciation events in the Greater Cincinnati area, while also working with the behavioral health science department at the University of South Carolina, Hurst’s alma mater, on military engagement projects.
Hurst, Kittle and Rivera demonstrated exceptional effort to honor and support members of the military community. The Salute to Service Award recipient will be recognized at NFL Honors, a primetime awards show airing live Thursday, Feb. 9 at 9 PM ET / 8 PM CT on NBC, NFL Network and Peacock from Symphony Hall in Phoenix, Arizona.
“All three of this year’s finalists for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA serve America’s military community in different but impactful ways, with each deserving recognition for their exemplary commitment to those who wear the uniform,” said Vice Admiral (Ret.) JOHN BIRD, USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs. “From caring for the mental health of veterans, to connecting with military families, and the unwavering support of active-duty servicemembers, USAA thanks and salutes Hayden, George, and Coach Rivera for their commitment to our military, veterans and their families, and to all NFL fans for helping determine this year’s worthy finalists.”
USAA will contribute $25,000 in the award recipient’s honor to the official aid societies representing each of the military branches. The NFL will match USAA’s donation of $25,000, which will be donated to the award recipient’s military charity of choice. The award recipient will receive a specially designed military challenge coin, recognizing their commitment to the military. In what has become a long-standing tradition, challenge coins are presented to members of the military community to demonstrate membership, recognize excellence, or boost morale.
The Salute to Service Award is part of USAA and the NFL’s year-round commitment to honor, empower, and connect with our nation’s service members, veterans, and their families. The 32 nominees were released in November and consisted of active and retired players, coaches, and team executives and personnel who best demonstrated support for the military community.
New this year, fans helped determine the three finalists by voting for their favorite nominees. Finalists were determined by a consensus vote of fans, an NFL internal committee and USAA. Nominees were evaluated on the positive effect of their efforts on the military community, the type of service conducted, the thoroughness of the program and level of commitment.
A panel of judges, consisting of representatives from the U.S. military community, the NFL and USAA, will determine the Salute to Service Award recipient, and includes:
• VICE ADMIRAL JOHN BIRD (Ret.), U.S. Navy veteran, USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs
• LENNY BANDY, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and NFL Vice President of Security
• CHAD HENNINGS, U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, three-time Super Bowl champion
• JIM MORA, SR., U.S. Marine Corps veteran, former NFL head coach
• ANDREW BECK, Denver Broncos Tight End and 2021 Salute to Service Award recipient
Since 2011, USAA has used its sponsorship to honor and appreciate service members, veterans and their families by creating unique opportunities that bring the military community and the NFL closer together.
Salute to Service
Salute to Service is the NFL’s year-long initiative to honor, empower, and connect our nation’s service members, veterans, and their families. Since 2011, this effort has raised more than $58 million for military and veteran support organizations such as the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF), Pat Tillman Foundation (PTF), Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), United Service Organizations (USO) and Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP). For more information on Salute to Service, visit NFL.com/Salute.
Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is among the leading providers of insurance, banking and investment and retirement solutions to 13 million members of the U.S. military, veterans who have honorably served and their families.
Headquartered in San Antonio, USAA has offices in seven U.S. cities and three overseas locations and employs more than 37,000 people worldwide. Each year, the company contributes to national and local nonprofits in support of military families and communities where employees live and work. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com.
Dan Lessard, NFL
Michael Pernal, 160over90 (for USAA)