Three former players with a commitment to community service will soon embark on an NFL-USO tour. ESPN analyst Merril Hoge, ESPN and NFL Network analyst Matt Millen and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Anthony Muñoz will travel to meet and greet members of the U.S. military for several days in the Persian Gulf.
The NFL and the USO have organized overseas morale-boosting visits for 45 years. 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.
In the past four decades, NFL stars including Terry Bradshaw , Larry Csonka, Franco Harris, Howie Long, Don Meredith, Lynn Swann and Johnny Unitas have visited service members on NFL-USO tours in locations such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Japan, Korea, Kuwait and Somalia. In 2008, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell joined players on a USO trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year, coaches Brad Childress, John Fox, Marvin Lewis and Andy Reid spent a week traveling through Afghanistan and Germany visiting the troops.
Former players participating in the tour:
Merril Hoge, ESPN Analyst:
Former NFL running back and current ESPN analyst Merril Hoge appears on a variety of programs including NFL Live, NFL Matchup, and NFL PrimeTime. He joined ESPN in 1995 after an eight-year career, primarily with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1987-93). In 1994, Hoge spent his final season with the Chicago Bears.
Outside of his television work, Hoge is involved in a myriad of projects. In January 2010, he was appointed to the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee, which initiates research and advises the NFL and NFL clubs on best practices for concussion prevention and management. He is a member of the board of directors for USA Football, the sport's national governing body on youth and amateur levels, as well as the Highmark Caring Foundation in Pennsylvania, where he is currently Chairman of the Board. Last September, Hoge released his first book, Find a Way: Three Words That Changed My Life.
"I feel honored to go over there and in some way bring a little bit of relief to people who fight for me every day," said Hoge. "Every time I lay my head down I night, I am thankful for what they do to protect our country and serve. We'll spend time there with the men and women who lay their life on the line everyday and it's such a small sacrifice and an honor to be able to go over there and experience that."
Matt Millen, ESPN and NFL Network analyst:
Four-time Super Bowl champion Matt Millen has more than 30 years of NFL experience as a player (1980-91), broadcaster (1992-2001; 2009-present) and team president for the Detroit Lions (2001-08). He currently works as an NFL studio and college football game analyst for ESPN, as well as a game analyst on NFL Network's Thursday Night Football.
A Pro Bowl selection in 1988, Millen was a member of four Super Bowl championship teams during his 12-year NFL career as a linebacker with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (1980-88), San Francisco 49ers (1989-90) and Washington Redskins (1991).
Millen's oldest son, Marcus, is a graduate of West Point and is currently in active duty in Afghanistan as an Airborne Ranger.
"It is a privilege to go visit the troops in all lines of duty," said Millen. "We all appreciate what they do every day, whether on enemy lines or elsewhere. They have volunteered to be there and I'm glad to be part of it, even if it's just for a short time, to support them."
A first round pick for the Cincinnati Bengals in 1980, Anthony Muñoz went on to play his entire career with the team and started all 13 years. He was an eleven time Pro Bowl Selection, a member of the 75th anniversary All NFL Team and a 1998 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee. Recently, Muñoz was named the 12th greatest NFL player of all time by ESPN/NFL Films.
Muñoz currently devotes most of his time to his non-profit, the Anthony Muñoz Foundation, which engages the Cincinnati community to impact underprivileged youth. He currently serves as a member of the NFL Players Safety Advisory Panel.
"It's an honor to be with the men and women who protect and serve our great country," said Muñoz. "They are the true heroes, and I have heartfelt gratitude for them."