One of the NFL's primary military partners is the Pat Tillman Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting educational opportunities for veterans and their families.
In 2002, Pat Tillman walked away from a $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army. Following his death in April 2004, while serving with the U.S. Army's 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan, his family and friends established the Pat Tillman Foundation. Created to honor Pat's legacy, by inspiring others to create their own, the mission of the Pat Tillman Foundation is to invest in military veterans and their spouses through educational scholarships; building a diverse community of leaders committed to service to others.
Inspired by Pat's attributes of leadership, passion for education and spirit of service, the Foundation annually awards scholarships through the Tillman Military Scholars program. In 2010, the NFL and Pat Tillman Foundation established the NFL-Tillman Military Scholar award to annually honor an individual who exemplifies Pat's enduring legacy of service. The Tillman Military Scholars program provides financial support which covers direct study-related expenses such as tuition and books, as well as other basic needs such as housing and childcare and is available to veterans, those currently serving in the Military and military spouses.
Wheaton of Phoenix, Arizona, has been selected as the 2015 NFL-Tillman Military Scholar. The Arizona Cardinals will recognize Wheaton at a game this year. After serving six deployments to the Middle East, Joseph turned his attention to new challenges. After completing a law degree, Joseph determined that the lack of access to quality education for young children was the greatest threat to our nation. Believing that classrooms need leaders as teachers, Joseph embarked on a two-year Teach For America journey, where he realized that his experiences as a squad leader prepared him well for leading a classroom.
Wheaton is currently pursuing a Master of Education while working full-time as a teacher in order to address education policy issues and continue to bring education leadership to those who need it most. It is his hope that a greater understanding of education policy, combined with his law degree, will enable him to affect change on the policy level. Joseph believes it is his duty, as a leader in the classroom, to foster a culture of high expectations. This is step one on his mission to close the opportunity gap in our education system.