While fifth-round draft picks are no safe bets to work out, the New England Patriots’ from 2015 certainly did. The team used the 166th overall selection to bring Naval Academy long snapper Joe Cardona on board back then, and he has become a core member of the Patriots’ kicking game operation. Cardona helped bring two Super Bowls to Foxborough, and earned himself a four-year contract extension in 2018.
His loyalties are not limited to the Patriots, though, as he also continues to serves in the U.S. Navy. Not only was he promoted to Lieutenant last year, he has also led numerous military support initiatives over the course of his five-year career in the NFL: Cardona has hosted over a dozen special re-enlistment and retirement ceremonies, and free football clinics for military children at military bases all over New England.
In 2018, Cardona was furthermore named as the organization’s Ron Burton Community Service Award winner for his exemplary work off the field. Given his commitment to pro football, the Navy and numerous charitable causes, it is only logical to see the Patriots make the 28-year old their nominee for the 2020 Salute to Service Award presented by USAA — the fifth straight year that the team has picked him as its nominee.
The award, which is handed out annually since 2011, honors NFL members, who demonstrate “exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community”. Finalists will be announced in January, while the actual award will be given out as part of the NFL Honors ceremony ahead of the Super Bowl.
The NFL’s full statement about Cardona’s nomination reads as follows:
Joe Cardona attended the Naval Academy for four years prior to his 2015 rookie season where he was an Ensign in the Navy and worked as a staff officer at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island. That season, he was working his second job four days a week, which included a 24-hour shift during the team’s “day off.”
In 2017, Joe was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade and served as a junior commissioned officer in the United States Navy and in 2019, Joe was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in the Navy. He proudly wears his Naval uniform as the team boards the plane for away games. Joe has facilitated more than a dozen re-enlistment and retirement ceremonies at Gillette Stadium for fellow military members. He also led a handful of free football clinics for military children at military bases across New England and replaced military family toys that were burned in a fire three years ago at Joint Base Cape Cod.
In 2017, Joe rallied teammates and coaches to each donate a pair of tickets to their game against Atlanta and over 150 military members, who had recently returned from deployment, were invited to the game and participated in a special pregame ceremony.
Each year during Memorial Day weekend, Joe helps plant more than 37,000 American flags in the Boston Common to honor the brave men and women from Massachusetts that have lost their lives defending our country. Joe also offers his support to the Travis Manion Foundation, a nonprofit that empowers veterans and families of fallen heroes to develop character in future generations.