Will fifth time be the charm for Joe Cardona? In his fifth straight year as the New England Patriots’ nominee for the NFL Salute to Service Award presented by USAA, Cardona has made the final round for the first time. The league announced the three finalists on Tuesday, with San Francisco 49ers general manager (and short time Patriot) John Lynch as well as AMB Sports and Entertainment CEO Steve Cannon also up for the award.
Cardona originally arrived in New England as a fifth-round draft selection in 2015. Only the fourth ever long snapper to hear his name called on draft day, the Navy product went on to become a core member of the Patriots’ kicking game operation: he helped bring two Super Bowls to Foxborough and earned a four-year contract extension in 2018.
His loyalties are not limited to the Patriots, though, as he also continues to serve in the U.S. Navy. He was promoted to Lieutenant last year and has also led numerous military support initiatives over the course of his six-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 recognized 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 was only logical to see the Patriots yet again make the 28-year-old their nominee for the Salute to Service Award.
The award will be given out as part of the NFL Honors ceremony ahead of the Super Bowl, to the finalist who is deemed to best fulfill the criteria the panel of judges is looking for. Cardona, Lynch and Cannon will be evaluated “based on the positive effect of the individual’s efforts on the military community, the type of service conducted, the thoroughness of the program and level of commitment.”
The NFL’s full statement about Cardona 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.