Allen Park, Mich. – The Detroit Lions announced today that Head Coach Matt Patricia has been nominated for the NFL's 2019 Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. The Salute to Service Award annually recognizes NFL players, coaches, personnel and alumni who demonstrate an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community, as nominated by NFL clubs.
Currently in his 16th season as an NFL coach and second as the head coach of the Lions, Patricia's support of the United States Armed Forces dates back to his days as an aeronautical engineering major at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where his "first love" was airplanes. With several close friends currently serving in the military, specifically the Navy and Navy SEALs, Patricia grows his beard every season to honor his loved ones overseas – most of whom typically sport full beards.
"I'm not shaving until you get back. When you see us on TV, or see me on TV, you'll know I'll be thinking about you," Patricia said during his press conference at Super Bowl LII.
In 2018, his first year as head coach, the Lions partnered with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). Through Patricia's work with Lions players on the launch of the team's social justice initiative, Detroit Lions Inspire Change, the Lions became the first NFL team to fund scholarship opportunities for TAPS families. During the team's Salute to Service game against the Carolina Panthers last season, Patricia hosted Michigan-based TAPS families and, alongside several players, honored the families' lost loved ones with personalized buttons and helmet decals on game day. Lions players also conducted a ticket drive that invited hundreds of military members to the Panthers game. This year, Patricia and the Lions plan to honor 25 TAPS families when Detroit takes on the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 17.
As part of his first My Cause My Cleats initiative as an NFL head coach, Patricia showcased the Word of Honor Fund, which provides a continuum of support that facilitates milestone events for the surviving children of Navy SEALs and Special Operations personnel who lost their lives while assigned to select Naval Special Operations Groups. Last June, he donated 325 backpacks to the organization's Annual Summertime Gathering in Willow Creek, Idaho.
Over the last two years, Patricia and the Lions have hosted and helped fund the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Maltz Challenge, an annual worldwide cross-fit event held in memory of United States Airforce Pararescue man Mike Maltz that honors service men and women lost in the line of duty. This past March, more than 150 participants gathered at the team's Allen Park practice facility to compete in the event, where Patricia greeted participants and helped organize a gift presentation to the family of Private First Class Tarryl Hill, a Southfield, Mich. native who died while serving in the Iraq War.
Patricia's commitment to supporting the service men and women of our country is also rooted in a passion for preserving and honoring American history. In June 2018, Patricia led a private trip of the entire team and coaching staff to Arlington National Cemetery, where the team together remembered fallen heroes before embarking on the upcoming season. During this trip, Patricia and the team's player leadership council also visited Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
This past August, while participating in joint training camp practices with the Houston Texans, Patricia also coordinated a team trip to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, NASA's headquarters for human spaceflight training. Lions players and staff were given an exclusive opportunity to hear NASA astronaut and United States Navy SEAL Chris Cassidy present on his distinguished career path, as well as the many parallels between the training regimens of professional football players and astronauts.
Throughout the football season, Patricia consistently hosts military friends at both home and road games and also allows them to take part in team meetings and view practice. Over the last two seasons, he has also brought in retired United States Navy Admiral John "Boomer" Stufflebeem, to speak to the team on topics ranging from media training to culture building. A former Lions punter and close friend of Patricia, Stufflebeem served 39 years in the Navy and is well-known for his role as the primary media liaison for the Pentagon following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.