Colorado Air National Guard Capt. Ben Garland, an offensive lineman with the Atlanta Falcons, will join four fellow NFL players and a former head coach on a weeklong NFL-USO tour of military bases in Italy and Germany, the league announced Wednesday.
Defensive ends Mario Addison (Carolina Panthers) and Carlos Dunlap (Cincinnati Bengals) and running backs Mark Ingram (New Orleans Saints) and Latavius Murray (Minnesota Vikings) round out the tour’s active roster. Former New York Jets and Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan, now an ESPN analyst, also will make the trip, per the NFL news release.
Dates and locations were not announced; past tours also did not reveal such details far in advance, citing security concerns.
The Air Force Reserve officer and the playoff-bound Atlanta Falcons formed a bond with a grieving Air Force family.
More than 250 NFL players, coaches and executives have participated in such tours since 1966, per the release.
Garland, a 2010 Air Force Academy graduate, will make the trip after his second full season with the Falcons ― a third is on the way thanks to a recent contract signing worth $2.9 million. He also played in eight games with the Denver Broncos in 2014.
The officer was Atlanta’s nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award last season and has worked with multiple charities, including some attached to military causes. Last weekend, Garland had his head shaved by a teammate as part of a fundraiser to fight childhood cancer.
The league made a three-year, $5 million commitment to the USO in 2016 “to support the expansion and refurbishment of USO centers and programming,” per the release. The tour is part of the NFL’s Salute to Service program.