Ryan Jensen (Center)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen has established himself as a leader on the Buccaneers offensive line. Off the field, Jensen has made Salute to Service efforts a priority through everyday relationships, outreach programs and gameday initiatives. Jensen's grandfather served in Vietnam and Korea as a member of the Army's 101st Airborne Division. Jensen's uncle followed his footsteps into the Army, and Jensen's adopted brother, has served in the Marine Corps – having completed tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Given these ties, it's no surprise that in 2014, Jensen made a special bond with a five-year-old boy named Cooper who took a liking to Jensen for their shared bushy red hair. When Jensen learned that Cooper was also the product of a military family, and that his father was tragically killed in action before Cooper was born, it sparked a deeper connection. Through the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Jensen has stayed in contact with the family. For the past several years, Jensen has honored Cooper and TAPS through the NFL's annual My Cause, My Cleats initiative, and as the young boy provides added perspective to Jensen as he raises a family of his own, he plans to continue to bring greater awareness and support to Gold Star Families who are grieving the loss of a member of the armed forces. Annually, Jensen has supported the Buccaneers' Schwarzkopf Military Family of the Year Awards, which honors military families from each branch of the armed forces. He has also visited MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa through the USO Central Florida, has helped promote fundraising efforts for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, and helps lead the team's support for Military Day at Training Camp. For all Buccaneers home games, Jensen ensures that local military families enjoy a special gameday experience. He has donated nearly $30,000 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation for his community ticket program "Jensen's G.I. Joes" where a variety of military organizations receive this memorable opportunity. Benefitting organizations have included the USF Veteran Success Center, Wounded Warrior Project, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Liberty Manor for Veterans and the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation, among others. As the NFL center gains new perspective with each act of service, he hopes to inspire his son, Wyatt, to follow the same path of serving others as he grows up. "As leaders not just on a football team, but as men trying to raise other men, I hope to raise him in a way that he wants to serve other people and provide some hope to men and women who are needing it," Jensen said. "I hope it sparks a passion for him to find something that he wants to make better."