As military members walked into the Bon Secours Training Center in Richmond, smiles appeared on their faces.
USAA and Redskins Salute invited 50 local military members to participate in "USAA's Salute to Service NFL Boot Camp" event on Tuesday, giving the veterans a real-life experience in what the players go through at the NFL Combine.
"It is an honor to host service members at the 'USAA's Salute to Service NFL Boot Camp' with the Washington Redskins, creating a unique and memorable experience through our role as Official NFL Salute to Service Partner," USAA military affairs representative for the Washington, D.C., area, Ronney Wright, said. "Not only do the service members have a chance to watch practice and meet Redskins' players, but they enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete on the same field and participate in the some of the same drills as these NFL players. Bringing service members closer to a game they love is just one way USAA and the Redskins say thank you for their service and sacrifice."
Each service member participated in football drills similar to those watched by NFL coaches to evaluate prospective talent. Following the boot camp, participants enjoyed a VIP hospitality area to watch the Redskins practice and have a special meet and greet with the players post practice. The military members also had the opportunity to take photos and get autographs from their favorite players.
What made the event enjoyable for the military members was not only getting a taste of what professional football players go through, but competing against each other to see who was the best at the drills.
"Hey it's all about comradery," Wright said. "I'm hoping when you're walking around, you see smiles, you see sweat and you feel that little bit of competition kicking in. They all want to win, no matter what because they're Type A [military members]."
Military members joined the Redskins and USAA bright and early for a special training camp event that allowed servicemen and women to work out on the Redskins practice fields.
With USAA and the Redskins reaching out to various military branches, a variety of veterans with different backgrounds came together to compete in the drills. Splitting up into teams for competition, the points were gathered at the end of the stations that consisted of the 40-yard dash, receiving gauntlet, QB arm challenge, three-cone shuffle, and the vertical jump.
For some members, interacting with military branches outside of their own was their favorite part of the event.
"It's awesome," Air Force member Marissa Norby said. "I love being able to meet Coast Guard people and Navy because you never really get to see them in the Air Force. So it's cool."
USAA and the Redskins teamed up to make the boot camp an experience that the military members would remember for a lifetime. In addition to giving them a hands-on NFL experience, the participants were given a free T-Shirt and a gift bag that contained a towel, mini football and other items.
While the military's schedule consists of a lot of hard work, those serving are appreciative that USAA and the Redskins show their full support.
"It just shows that they're really supportive of their community and the military," Air Force member Alexander Peterson said. "With everything that's crazy going on with the world, it's good that people still support us and take care of us out there. Especially USAA putting on this great event for us and the Redskins just coming out with all their support."