Former NFL executive, players part of USO Middle East tour

Four representatives from the NFL will visit troops in the Middle East for a week during the Independence Day holiday, the league announced Tuesday, continuing a 45-year tradition with the USO.

Former Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian, ex-linebackers Chris Draft and Donnie Edwards and former running back Eric Metcalf will travel to military bases throughout the Middle East this week. Edwards is making his fifth USO tour, but the others are visiting soldiers for the first time.

The trip is the second this year for NFL personnel. Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, Cleveland Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Davin Joseph, Broncos linebacker Von Miller, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt visited the Middle East during March. They greeted the troops, dined with soldiers and signed autographs.

The NFL has been teaming with the USO since 1966, when players traveled to Vietnam to greet troops. Since then, NFL-USO tours have visited Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Japan, Korea, Kuwait and Somalia.

-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor

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