Atlanta Falcons goaltender Ben Garland and former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple are the finalists for the NFL's Salute To Service Award.
The recipient of the award, presented by USAA, will be unveiled on February 2 at the NFL honors ceremony when the Associated Press will announce its annual league prizes, including MVP.
Garland and Hipple were selected for their efforts to support members of the military community.
USAA, a provider of insurance and other services to US servicemen, veterans and their families, will donate $ 25,000 in honor of the winner to official aid societies representing the five branches of the military. The NFL will match the USAA donation to the military association chosen by the recipient of the award.
Garland attended the Air Force Academy and has just completed his fifth professional season. He was recently selected to become Major in the Colorado Air National Guard.
Garland helps veterans adapt to life after service and raise public awareness of PTSD. Last year, he participated in the Georgia LOSS march of the Armed Forces Mission, alongside veterans, military and families involved in a program called "Reversing the Suicide Process for Veterans".
By participating in the military, he taught Garland lessons that helped him as an athlete and vice versa.
"Being part of the National Air Guard has been paramount in my development as a football player," he said. "It has helped me develop my leadership skills, my mental strength, my ability to work under pressure and to establish a state of mind based on the core values of the Air Force, namely: integrity, service before oneself and excellence in everything we do. I also believe that my career in the NFL has made me a better officer. During my career, I had the opportunity to play for some of the best coaches in the world and, in doing so, I was able to study their leadership methods. "
Garland works throughout the year with a number of nonprofit military organizations: Veterans & Gamers Fusion, Emory Healthcare Veterans Program, Shepherd Center SHARE Initiative and TAPS. He works with Pigskin Patriots to help raise funds and give time for military child camps and with the Children's Tomb Foundation of the Patriots for the grant of scholarship funds.
Hipple retired after the 1989 season after 10 seasons in the NFL. Since the suicide of her son Jeff, aged 15, Hipple has worked to raise awareness and dispel the stigma surrounding depressive illness.
In collaboration with NAVY US Fleet Forces, Hipple has organized workshops on suicide and the prevention of destructive behaviors, focusing on mental health, over the past decade. His book "Real Men Do Cry" received a Presidential Editor Award.
After retiring from the University of Michigan's Comprehensive Depression Center, where he spent 11 years in outreach, Hipple is an outreach specialist for the Eisenhower Center's "After The Impact" program. Behavioral Service for Veterans and Former NFL Players.
"There are many similarities between working with military players and the NFL regarding their mental health," he said. "The pressure of training, stress, performance, victory and mission come first and foremost, the risk of injury. Above all, he keeps their identity and camaraderie in the locker room after a completed career. Some of the pitfalls are depression, PTSD and addiction. "
Hipple hosts suicide prevention workshops for US Fleet Forces at Naval and Naval Air Stations on the East Coast, Europe and the Middle East. He participated in the planning of the Army's suicide prevention campaign by Real Warrior and organized public interest messages with the players to support members of the services. In 2008, Hipple collaborated with the Legends NFL Players Union to speak at the Texas Army, New York, Georgia and Mississippi Army bases during the playoffs, as well as for the Real Warrior Campaign at the Okinawa Marine base in Japan.
Last October, the 32 NFL clubs named coaches, active and retired players, as well as leaders and team staff who have demonstrated the highest support for the military community. Nominations were judged by a panel of judges, including last year's winner, former Atlanta Falcons and current New York Jets receiver Andre Roberts, all-Pro 2018 recidivist.
Former Falcons coach, Dan Quinn, Buccaneers catcher, Vincent Jackson, Bears defensive end, Ravens coach Jared Allen, John Harbaugh, Bears defenseman Charles Tillman and owner of the Titans , Bud Adams.