<span>NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, joined by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, will soon leave on a seven-day, three-country summer USO tour led by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen.
It will be the first time that the commissioner of a sports league visits U.S. troops overseas as part of a USO tour, according to the USO.
At the request of Commissioner Goodell, Brees and Umenyiora will join the tour along with other participants invited by Admiral Mullen, including two members of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.
"It is a great honor to have been asked to join Admiral Mullen on this USO tour," said Commissioner Goodell. "I anticipate that it will be a very humbling and memorable experience. I am inspired by the many NFL representatives that, over the decades, have volunteered to visit our troops overseas and have talked about it being a life-changing experience. I want to do my part and emphasize that the entire NFL appreciates and supports the work that our military does to protect our country."
The NFL has partnered with the USO for more than 40 years. The NFL was the first sports organization to send players to visit troops in Vietnam when future Pro Football Hall of Famers Willie Davis, Frank Gifford, Sam Huff and Johnny Unitas went there and to other parts of the Far East in 1966. Earlier this year, three NFL players – defensive linemen Luis Castillo of San Diego, Tommie Harris of Chicago and Mike Rucker of Carolina – took a week-long NFL-USO tour to Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan to support the soldiers.
For the two NFL players accompanying Commissioner Goodell, this will be their second time overseas this offseason on goodwill trips.
Brees, the co-winner of the 2006 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award who has produced the first two 4,000-yard passing seasons in Saints history, visited Okinawa on a USO tour this spring. While on those Pacific beaches, Brees talked by phone to his grandfather, who had landed as a U.S. Marine on those same beaches more than 60 years ago and participated in some of the heaviest fighting in World War II.
Umenyiora, who led the Giants in sacks (13.0) last season while helping the club to its Super Bowl XLII title, joined four other NFL players – Ahman Green (Houston), Israel Idonije(Chicago), Adewale Ogunleye (Chicago) and Amobi Okoye(Houston) -- this spring on a humanitarian mission to Nigeria to help set up college scholarships at 10 universities, distribute HIV testing kits to clinics, dig water wells in villages, and outfit a youth soccer team.