Each year Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders and former players go to different military bases around the world to bring the troops a little piece of home. On his seventh military tour yet, former Miami Dolphins tight end Troy Drayton feels a special connection to the men and women in the military.
Walking into a base wearing the iconic NFL shield and team logo on their jerseys, many people identify the players and are pleasantly surprised.
In Wounded Warriors hospital, one of the first places Drayton visited on a tour, he saw
many younger people who were impacted by the horrors of war. Some suffer from Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder and some have legs blown off, Drayton said. “[But] when you walk into the room, they forget all of it.”
“You felt the gratitude and I think that was the most humbling part,” Drayton said. “They appreciated it so much. That’s why I kinda got the bug.”`
On his first tour in Germany, Drayton even made an “impromptu football camp in a cementary/park” under four feet of snow with a club team who heard that professional players were in the mall in front.
“The players went and met ’em and they asked us if we could teach them a couple things. So, we went across the street and we taught em how to block, how to catch a ball, how to tackle, and then our cheerleaders actually came over and met the players.”
Coming from a bloodline of military men, a grandfather and uncle who served in the Army and a cousin in the Air Force, Drayton always felt like if he didn’t play football that he would have definitely had a career in the military. Drayton said that his mother told him, “One of two things: You’re either going to college or you’re going to the military.”
After 10 years in the NFL and having a chance to talk to different people in the military, Drayton finds many similarities between football and the military. To him, the sense of brotherhood and comradery found in both the football and military experience is irreplaceable.
“That’s the goal of any Head coach in football,” Drayton said. “His job is to get 53 guys on the same page going in the same direction. And the military is no different.”
Drayton took part in the most recent military tour to Kuwait and Egypt this February. After visiting many different countries on these tours, including going to Afghanistan twice, Drayton said that he doesn’t think that there’s a better way to see the world than to be protected by the military because they guard them there just as well as they guard the president.
“When we’re at home we take that for granted. When we’re at home when we’re resting our heads at night, we don’t realize that there are people out there sacrificing their time, their lives for us to be safe on American soil,” Drayton said. “A lot of people say that football players and athletes are heroes but the true heroes are our men and women in the military.”