News: NFL coaches visit Afghanistan
Story by Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – The NFL and the USO teamed up for its annual NFL-USO coaches tour July 2-5. The tour visited service members throughout Regional Command East.
The tour began in 1966, when then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle conceived of the idea of sending NFL players on "goodwill" tours to visit U.S. troops, who were fighting in Vietnam. Four future Hall of Fame players Johnny Unitas, Willie Davis, Sam Huff and Frank Gifford participated in that first NFL-USO tour.
In the following years, many NFL stars including Bart Starr, Jack Kemp, Dick Butkus, Gene Upshaw, Archie Manning, Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, Jerome Bettis, Warrick Dunn and Drew Brees have visited our fighting forces stationed in every corner of the globe.
This year’s coaches, Leslie Frazier, head coach of the Minnesota Vikings; Ben Kotwica assistant special teams coach of the New York Jets; Bill Cowher, former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers; and Eric Mangini, former head coach of the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets uplifted troop’s morale with their visit.
“It’s a huge morale booster for us to see some of our favorite coaches in Afghanistan, out here with us,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Dominick, a military policeman with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company 82nd Airborne Division and a native of Atlanta. “I appreciate them coming out here and spending their 4th of July weekend with us.”
The coaches were grateful for the opportunity to come and see how the troops are living.
“It’s an awesome experience to come out here and see the soldiers still enforcing the policy to standard,” Kotwica said.
Kotwica, served in the army for seven years after graduating from West Point Academy. During his time in the Army, Kotwica deployed to Iraq, he knows that this trip means a lot to the service members.
“Just to be able to come out here and spend some time with the soldiers’ means a lot,” Kotwica said. “It’s an honor to be here with them [soldiers] to show our appreciation for what they do for America each day.